CHICAGO (Reuters) – The government plans to blow up a third section of a Mississippi River levee on Wednesday night to allow flood water back into the river, as river levels upstream continue to drop.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up a two-mile section of the Birds Point levee Monday night, flooding about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland, to ease flooding in towns in Illinois and Kentucky. A second, smaller section was detonated Tuesday afternoon to allow water back into the river.
Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said the Corps is waiting for additional explosive materials to reach the site of the third area. The earliest the site could be breached is 8 or 9 p.m. Wednesday night. No further breaches of the Birds Point type are planned, he said.
The Corps also may operate two floodways in Louisiana, but those have permanently installed gate structures and do not require explosives to open them.
The National Weather Service said the river gauge at Cairo, Illinois, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet, showed the water level had dropped almost two feet since Monday night when the Corps blew a hole in the protective embankment.
The level was at 59.82 feet at 11 a.m. local time Wednesday, down from 61.72 feet Monday evening.
Both rivers have been rising to historic levels as a result of days of rain and the melt and runoff of heavy winter snowstorms.
Controversy surrounding the extraordinary demolition continues, with Missouri farmers affected by it filing suit Tuesday.
Flooding from swollen rivers continues to cause evacuations and property damage in Midwestern and southern states, including Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Evacuations have taken place in parts of Memphis and Millington in Shelby County, Tennessee as well as in three other counties along the Mississippi River and another one on the Cumberland River.
One of the concerns in floods is the impact on drinking and wastewater treatment. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that so far the local drinking water systems are operational.
(Additional reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune)