Mississippi River Commission High-Water Hearing

April 16, 2018

Major General Richard G. Kaiser, President,  and Members of the Commission:     My name is W. Dustin Boatwright. I am the Chief Engineer of The Little River Drainage District (LRDD) headquartered in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and serve as Missouri’s Regional Engineer for the Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association. Our District is a major contributor to the St. Francis Basin watershed draining nearly 2 million acres of the upper St. Francis watershed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is authorized to perform major maintenance and improvements within the watershed of the St. Francis Basin, which is an integral part of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T). 

            Let me start by thanking the U.S. Congress for investing in our nation’s future. The Mississippi River and Tributaries project funding levels from December 2016-2018 are at a record level with $1.1 B received in Disaster Supplemental Funds and $1.1 B in appropriations for a total of $2.2B. Protecting the people and property of the Mississippi Valley along with the navigation advancements to the Mississippi River through the MR&T project has proven to be a wise investment for our nation over the past 90 years with 67 to 1 return on the federal investment in flood damages prevented despite the project being only 90% complete ($7.1 Billion needed to complete project).  

           We would again like to express our sincere gratitude and thanks to the Commander of the USACE Memphis District, Colonel Ellicott for he and his staff’s due diligence in identifying the flood damages to the system within the Memphis District from the December/January 2015/2016 flood and again during this past flood event of April/May 2017. The hard work performed by the Memphis District team helped not only justify the funding levels provided by the U.S. Congress, but also ensures the MR&T project is prepared for future flood events. What a great example of the strong partnership developed between the local people and USACE Memphis District. The local people and USACE Memphis District must now use this momentum to work together and execute the funding provided by the U.S. Congress in an effective and efficient manner. With the large level of funding currently available for repairs, maintenance, and construction (much of funding available until expended) the local people and the U.S. Congress will continue to encourage the Mississippi River Commission, USACE Mississippi Valley Division, and the Districts to execute a majority of the record funding over the next 24-36 months to ensure we are being proactive in preparation for the next flood event.

          We would like to further commend the Memphis District leadership for focusing on results rather than process. This method of project identification, data collection, and execution is very much welcomed and appreciated by the local people. The Memphis District leadership have undoubtedly lead the charge in the Mississippi Valley by acting and encouraging staff to think “outside the box” and find innovative solutions to the challenges of the St. Francis Basin and Mainline Mississippi River levee portions of the MR&T project. We wish to thank the Mississippi River Commission, The Mississippi Valley Division, and USACE HQ leadership for providing Colonel Ellicott and the Memphis District team the latitude to deviate from process and focus on results. Please continue this trend of delegating decisions back to the District level and fully utilizing the highly intelligent and very capable staff throughout USACE. Please continue to find ways to streamline and think outside the box to put the majority of funding directly into projects and not office overhead.            

          The Little River Drainage District has identified several maintenance issues within LRDD outlined in detail below. The authority to perform the needed work was granted by the United States Congress through the Flood Control Act of 1928 and subsequent Flood Control Acts. A large majority of the issues below are within the tributary, St. Francis Basin, due to the short falls in maintenance dollars in recent years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District has the capability to execute between $12-15 Million in operation and maintenance (O&M) dollars each year in the St. Francis Basin. In recent years the St. Francis Basin has received less than half of this capability, $5.9 Million, which has resulted in a backlog of projects. As each of you know, the entire project must be maintained to ensure the MR&T system provides adequate flood control, drainage protection, and navigation benefits to the entire valley. LRDD respectfully request the Mississippi River Commission consider providing immediate attention to the ten items outlined below:

  • Repair and armor scours along the Castor River Diversion Channel near the toe of the West Basin Levee System caused by the historic winter flooding of 2015/2016 and further exacerbated by the Spring Flood of 2017. Execution time on this particular project is paramount due to the scour damage increasing with each passing storm event. Due to the imminent threat posed by the scour damage the entire 13.5 mile stretch is in need of riprap armor. 
  • Excavation maintenance on the following channels which are under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis Districts major maintenance responsibility: Ditch No. 1 Upper (North of Highway EE), Ditch No. 251 (North of Highway EE), and Ditch No. 39. All three channels are main outlets for LRDD channels draining nearly 1.2 million acres in the LRDD watershed (See the attached Exhibit “A”). Approximately 1500 miles of upstream channels (blue and purple channels) must be conveyed through the channels under the USACE Memphis District’s major maintenance responsibility (red channels). 
  • Repair all levee slides on the Headwater Diversion Channel Levee, which occurred following the January 2016 flood and April/May 2017 flood.  
  • Armor the active erosion on Ditch No. 1, along the left descending bank, approximately one-half (1/2) mile upstream from Highway “62” in New Madrid County, Missouri. The channel continues to undercut the levee on the eastside bank. This levee has provided protection from flooding for nearly a century. There are a dozen homes and farming operations that would be devastated if the levee were to breach. LRDD respectfully requests USACE Memphis District to provide the needed riprap material to this site as soon as possible. 
  • Repair of an active scour on the levee separating the Ditch No. 81 Watershed from the Ditch No. 1 watershed near Hornersville, Missouri directly south of the Missouri Department of Conservation access bridge. If left unrepaired and the levee fails the cost to fix this problem will increase exponentially. LRDD and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) partnered to remove the old railroad pilings under the MDC bridge crossing over Ditch No. 81. The railroad pilings were contributing to the scour damage downstream. Now that the pilings have been removed the area needs to be armored with riprap material.
  •  Repair of an active scour on the Ramsey Creek Diversion Channel near Scott City, Missouri between Missouri State Highway “M” and Interstate 55.
  •  Straighten and armor a portion of Ditch No. 1 north of State Highway 60 beginning at the west bound bridge and terminating approximately 1 mile upstream at the junction of Ditch No. 39. The channel is meandering badly in this area which is threatening the levee on both sides of the channel. The concern is the channel will continue to meander and cause structural damage to the levee cross section. 
  •  Repair numerous active scours along the north bank of Headwater Diversion Channel near Allenville, Missouri. The major concern is during high-water events the channel is trying to create a cutoff across an old meandering of the Whitewater River. If a cutoff is created the outfall would be nearly perpendicular to the Headwater Diversion Channel Levee (Mainline Mississippi River Levee). The potential for this uncontrolled perpendicular flow undoubtedly threatens the integrity of the Headwater Diversion Channel Levee. LRDD hereby request the Memphis District take appropriate action to ensure a cutoff is not created by high-water events in the Headwater Diversion Channel.
  •  Alter the Big Lake Gate Structures system operation plan to utilize the latest technology to improve the conveyance of runoff through the system. The current system is utilizing gages mounted directly on the gate structures which trigger automatic operation once the channels reach a set elevation at the structure. This is an old system and has worked well during its time. However, with today’s technology this system can be improved to benefit both the upstream and downstream landowners along with wildlife management in the Big Lake and the Missouri Department of Conservation Hornersville Swamp. The current trend of high intensity, short duration rainfall events are causing rapid rises & falls accompanied by heavy sediment loads entering Big Lake Wildlife Refuge. This is not a good situation for the upstream and downstream landowners, or the fish and wildlife in Big Lake.  LRDD is proposing to work with the USACE Memphis District, Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and the landowners involved to alter the operation plan to help convey runoff through the system more efficiently. The thought is to utilize upstream gages in conjunction with forward weather forecasting to alter the gate operation days before runoff reaches the structures to improve conveyance of runoff through the St. Francis Basin system. The proposed operation alteration will provide additional runoff storage, less extreme rise and falls in channel/lake elevation, and decreased downstream flood elevations by allowing conveyance of runoff to occur over a longer period of time. The result is undoubtedly a win-win for all involved.  
  • Return the Operation of Lake Wappapello to USACE Memphis District Hydraulics Branch. Currently, Lake Wappapello is being controlled by the USACE St. Louis District, which lies outside of the MR&T footprint. Lake Wappapello is a flood control lake authorized in the Flood Control Act of 1936 (Overton Act) as an integral part of the St. Francis Basin portion of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) Project. To my knowledge, USACE Memphis District controls the operation and maintenance of the entire St. Francis Basin portion of the MR&T except for the operation of Lake Wappapello. LRDD respectfully requests the operation of Lake Wappapello be returned to the MR&T footprint with USACE Memphis District controlling the operation for its primary function of Flood Control. 

          This concludes the request of The Little River Drainage District. Please give these items careful consideration. At this time I have a few general comments I would like to make. 

          Keep this in mind, the 1927 Flood and the 1928 Flood Control Act brought us together as ONE and created a flood control & navigation system unmatched in the world, The Mississippi River and Tributaries project. Today, no other country can compete with the United States in the production and export of commodities around the globe. The MR&T provides our nation a huge economic advantage year end and year out due to the investment of our forefathers. The partnership established in the 1928 Flood Control Act (creation of MR&T) between the local people, The U.S. Congress, and the Mississippi River Commission (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), the Triad, is unique and undoubtedly the reason the MR&T project has been a success for the past 90 years and will continue to be a success in the future. Thank you all for the continued support, partnership, and the long term investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

          This concludes my remarks. Thank you for your time and attention. I will be happy to answer any questions.                                   

                                                                                   W. Dustin Boatwright, P.E., M ASCE

                                                                                    The Little River Drainage District

                                                                                    Executive Vice President/Chief Engineer

Exhibit A