Statement Of The Little River Drainage District Mississippi River Commission Low-water Hearing August 23, 2021

Major General Diana M. Holland, President
Mississippi River Commission

General Holland 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. LRDD is a major contributor to the St. Francis Basin watershed draining nearly 2 million acres of land in SE Missouri. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is authorized to perform major maintenance and improvements within the watershed of the St. Francis Basin along with the Mississippi River Levee (MRL) system, which are integral parts of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T).

The Little River Drainage District has identified several maintenance issues we would like to bring to the attention of the Mississippi River Commission (MRC). Please see the following;

  1. Nash, MO Slope Flattening – Funded, Awaiting Final Design & Contracting
  2. Sal’s Creek Scour Repair – Under Construction
  3. West Basin Phase 5 –Under Construction
  4. Headwater Diversion Channel Levee Scours- Under Construction
  5. Roadway surface material on the Headwater Diversion Channel Nash Parcel 1 Relief Well Roadway near Mile Marker 11. The roadway length is approximately 2500 ft. Access is necessary during flood events to monitor relief well’s #122-#155. This particular set of relief wells are offset approximately 8 ft. below the adjacent ground elevation making them difficult to monitor and access. A reliable roadway helps monitoring efforts tremendously during flood events due to the typical unfavorable site conditions. To date, this project has not been funded.
  6. Active erosion to the west bank of Ditch No. 290 adjacent to New Madrid County Road 341. The structural integrity of the county roadway infrastructure is being impacted by the scour/erosion along the right descending bank of Ditch No. 290. Without rock armor this damage will continue to worsen and eventually migrate outside the project right of way. The simple solution is to place riprap armor along right descending bank of Ditch No. 290 for approximately 4,000 ft. To date, this project has not been funded.
  7. Excavation of Ditch No. 66, and Ditch No. 39. Please see the attached Exhibit “A”. Note, the upstream channels (blue and purple lines) must be conveyed through the main outlet channels (red lines). The ability to convey water through Ditch No. 66 and Ditch No. 39 has been negatively impacted by the multiple highly turbid flood events causing large amounts of sedimentation within the channel cross-sections. To date, these projects have not been funded.
  8. Castor River Channel (cutoff portion) from Kinder, Missouri to Junction of Ditch No. 39 (approximately 2 miles east of State Highway 25 near Aquilla, Missouri) is in dire need of debris/drift removal and select shoal removal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District has the authority to perform maintenance activities within this stretch of cutoff channel under the St. Francis Basin Authority. This portion of channel drains approximately 55,000 acres of LRDD landscape west of Advance, Missouri through Crowley’s Ridge down to LRDD’s main outlet, Ditch No. 1. Approximately 100 miles of LRDD drainage ditches (see blue channels on attached Exhibit “A” west of Advance, MO) must drain through the Castor River channel that is in dismal condition, at best. In many places the channel is moving outside the project right of way and causing damage to county owned roadway infrastructure.

This concludes the maintenance requests of The Little River Drainage District. Please give these items careful consideration. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. The following outlines general concerns potentially impactful to the operation, maintenance, and overall function of the MR&T.

It is our understanding the damage assessment and subsequent projects in the St. Francis Basin portion of MR&T, following the 2019 flood, were not allowed to compete on an even playing field with the rest of the MR&T system damages. Without getting deep into the weeds, the decision was made by USACE staff categorize the St. Francis Basin damages to a lessor level of “damage impact” as the rest of the MR&T system. This decision is problematic for following reasons; 1) USACE has made it clear the MR&T is a “system” that works and functions together. If one part of the “system” fails, the entire system fails. This decision devalue a portion of the system would appear to be taking a step away from the systems approach of project management. 2) If one piece of the system to be labeled or categorized as less important than the rest of the system, we are setting a dangerous precedent for the St. Francis Basin to compete for future funding (both supplemental and/or regular appropriations).

Concerning the claim the 2019 flood damages within the St. Francis Basin were less impactful than the damages to the rest of the MR&T system, the following are examples of why that assumption is simply untrue;

Rainfall (2 Year Rainfall Totals)

  • 2019 & 2020 – 118 Inches of Rainfall (1st all time)
  • 2018 & 2019 – 117 Inches of Rainfall (2nd all time)
  • 2008 & 2009 – 106 Inches of Rainfall (3rd all time)
  • 1927 & 1928 – 102 Inches of Rainfall (4th all time)

The rainfall totals above clearly illustrate the soil conditions within the St. Francis Basin were fully saturated during the 2019 flood event from rainfall alone. Taking into account the 2019 flood event was the longest duration flood event in the history of the Mississippi River, it is presumable the ground water recharge/elevation in the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer were also at record levels throughout the Mississippi Delta (Cape Girardeau to Gulf Coast). Fortunately during 2019 we were able to ground check that presumption with data from 375 relief wells and irrigation wells throughout SE Missouri. The results coincided nearly identically with the fluctuations with the Mississippi River stage. Why is it important? Keep in mind the Mississippi River was in flood stage for nearly 2/3rds of the year throughout the entire system (some places longer than others). The long flood duration in combination with periods of heat and rainfall spacing during 2020 allowed the top soil layer to dry, but not to the typical depth we would normally see within the Mississippi Delta. The result was less rainfall infiltration and higher percentages of runoff during rainfall events, which caused higher levels of silt/sedimentation transport into the St. Francis Basin drainage channels than we would typically see during normal conditions. The result was heavy sediment loads entering the St. Francis Basin drainage channels thus damaging the system function. LRDD has sufficient data on file to validate the statements above.

Another example to further solidify the damages within the St. Francis Basin is the W.G. Huxtable Pump Station (Largest if its kind in the World and integral part of St. Francis Basin Portion of MR&T). During the 2019 flood Huxtable pumped a record 156 days. The previous historic record was 101 days during the 2011 flood. The average yearly use is 33 days. The 2019 event alone accounted for almost 5 years’ worth of normal wear and tear (damage) to the pump station.

The St. Francis Basin is undoubtedly a heavy hitting economic region for the United States and as such should not be devalued/lessened in importance by unelected public servants over our elected officials in Congress. The Little River Drainage District is simply asking for the St. Francis Basin damages to compete on a level playing field with the rest of the MR&T system after future flood events. Further, any unused 2019 supplemental funding that becomes available through savings or any other sort of reallocation should be considered for use in the St. Francis Basin to correct the adverse decision to devalue a portion of the MR&T project. Moving forward all projects within the MR&T system should be able to compete for supplemental funding following a disaster to ensure the project is prepared for the next flood event. Anything otherwise is irresponsible, at best.

On a similar note, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is set to release FEMA Flood Risk Rating 2.0 at a point in the near future. As a project sponsor of the MR&T project we sincerely ask USACE to ensure the value of our levee protected areas are not ignored. We must remember the MR&T system has returned $105 for every $1 federal dollar spent in damages prevented only prior to Hurricane Ida. Further, FEMA’s utilization of the Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Action Classification (LSAC) is inadequate and inappropriate for setting FEMA flood insurance rates and should not be used for such. To devalue/ignore the track record of such successful/wise flood control infrastructure investment is incomprehensible.

In closing, our economic success in the United States of America has been built by the combination of strategic Local, State, and Federal infrastructure investments throughout our history. Allowing a federal agencies to devalue flood control infrastructure that has a proven track record of success is irrational and unacceptable. The MR&T system works and is the best of example of successful civil works investment in the United States. Be proud of the system our forefathers provided us and carry on the legacy of protecting people and property when disaster strikes. Strength, pride, heraldry, prestige, and honor- USACE.

Thank you each of you for your time, attention, continued Partnership and investment into the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T).

W. Dustin Boatwright, P.E., M ASCE
Chief Engineer/Executive Vice President