More than 50,000 Acres of Wetlands Protected from Destructive Project

Prairie Rivers Network and Partners Stop the New Madrid Levee

By Kim Knowles

Great news regarding the New Madrid levee project! In a valiant final act to protect both people and wildlife, the Obama Administration issued a decision making it nearly impossible for the Army Corps of Engineers to build the New Madrid Levee. 

We’ve blogged about this horrible boondoggle before. If built, the levee would cut off a vitally important connection between the Mississippi River and its backwater habitat. In fact the connection is the last of its kind in Missouri.  By cutting off that connection, the levee would destroy more than 50,000 acres of wetlands that give life to hundreds of species of fish, waterfowl and migratory birds, like the wood duck chicks pictured above. The levee would also increase the risk of flooding to towns like Cairo, Olive Branch and Metropolis. Residents in each of these towns have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed by flooding. With Obama’s final act these precious resources and communities will be spared.

Through the Council on Environmental Quality, the Obama Administration brokered an agreement between the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service that sets forth key requirements that the Army Corps would have to meet to build the New Madrid levee project (See CEQ resolution pp. 9-10).  We believe these requirements create insurmountable obstacles to the building of the New Madrid levee.

How did we accomplish this great victory?  In every sense of the word, it was truly a collaborative effort. Prairie Rivers Network gives a special shout out to the National Wildlife Federation for its stellar leadership, and to the citizens and leaders of Cairo, Olive Branch, Mounds and Metropolis. Key partners also include: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (IL and MO),  American Rivers, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, Illinois Sierra Club, Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

We’re happy! In these terribly troubling times, it is proving difficult to trust and to celebrate our victories. Yet we do so today, and we’ll do so tomorrow. And if need be, we’ll join together in the future and resist any attempt to revive this ill-fated project.