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Private levee overtops in Malta Bend bottoms (Updated 10:20 a.m. Monday)

Friday, July 8, 2011

A private levee near the Malta Bend bottoms started over topping on July 8, after a week-long fight and about 10,000 sandbags. On Sunday, July 10, water continued to pour in the 500 acres of corn owned by two farmers. The water will now fill in and push against the Malta Bend Levee which protects about 5,000 acres of crops.
For the first time since the Flood of 1993, a private levee in the Malta Bend bottoms started overtopping on Friday evening, July 8, after workers spent countless hours and over 10,000 sandbags trying to hold it.

However, with the Missouri River rising over six inches in the last two days and over a foot in the past week, they finally had to give up, said Jim Backes, who owns part of the levee.

"It was just getting too dangerous to have people working on it," he said on Saturday afternoon.

They had "given up" once before late Thursday evening, only to find the river had dropped roughly an inch by the next morning. But on Friday, the river started to rise again, hitting 30.78 inches at Waverly -- another second high record. The highest mark ever recorded at Waverly was 31.15 feet during the Flood of 1993.

Water is now filling in over the approximately 500 crop acres the levee was protecting and will soon push up against the Malta Bend levee, which protects about 5,000 acres of farmland.

A sandbagging machine was again in Saline County over the weekend, arriving late on Friday, July 8. Volunteers at Grand Pass made about 10,500 sandbags late Friday and all day Saturday, July 9.

Water rushes in over a private levee in the Malta Bend bottoms on Sunday, July 10.
They are planning on getting the machine again on Tuesday, July 12, and are needing more volunteers to help with moving, tying and stacking the bags. It takes approximately 20 people to keep the machine running. They are set up on Highway T north of Grand Pass in the river bottoms.

On Sunday, July 10, volunteers from Malta Bend and about 30 prisoners from the Boonville and Tipton correctional centers bagged almost 9,400 sandbags in Malta Bend. If needed, the bags will be used to shore up the Malta Bend and Cole Lake levees, located below Malta Bend.

Since last week, the machine has been used to bag almost 33,000 sandbags in the county.

At Grand Pass, where they have been sandbagging low spots on a private levee, as well as the Saline-Lafayette levee, they are still taking it "day by day."

"It's getting soft, but we haven't lost anything," said Kelly Thorp. "Everybody's getting tired."

Further downstream near Miami, they are sandbagging low spots and watching for animals burrowing into the levee.

"We're still getting a lot of seep water," said Alan Clements, a board member of the Saline County Levee District No. 2.

"Hopefully if it doesn't get any higher than it is, it won't soak them up all the way through, but they are getting awful soaked up," said Alan Clements.

The longer water is high on the levees, the more likely they are to develop soft spots and "push out" or breach.

Most of the farmers have said if water stays up until August, the seep water will probably drown out most of the crops growing in the bottoms for this year.

However, a breach or overtopping of a levee could ruin fields for several years, if not permanently, depending on where water runs through and how much sand is deposited. Several "blow holes" resulting from the Flood of 1993 and the Flood of 1951 are visible throughout the Saline County bottoms.

When this photo was taken on July 1, farmers were just beginning to put sandbags on a private levee near Malta Bend. The Missouri River levels at nearby Waverly were 29.7 feet and predictions were showing the river would fall. However, by Friday, July 8, the river had climbed over a foot to 30.78 feet and workers had spent countless hours and used over 10,000 sandbags to hold it. On Friday evening, they decided it had become too dangerous to continue the fight. Water is now filling in over the 500 acres of cropland the levee protected.
Right now, river levels are predicted to go down slightly this week. However a large thunderstorm complex is expected to form over the upper basin states early this week and could drop up to 2 inches, according to a report from the Army Corps of Engineers.

On Friday, July 8, the Missouri Department of Transportation issued an alert warning U.S. Highway 65 will probably be closed in a 10 mile stretch between Waverly and Carrollton.

Currently water is across the road, but the highway is still open in one lane, according to MoDot.

Volunteers unload pallets of sandbags onto the Malta Bend levee on Sunday, July 10. Volunteers and inmates from Boonville and Tipton bagged more than 9,000 sandbags to be used for this levee and the Cole Lake levee.
To find current river levels and more on record crests, go to the Marshall Ag online page and click under "River Watch 2011."

Photo gallery of the sandbagging machine: http://www.marshallnews.com/gallery/8286

On Sunday, July 10, water continued to pour in the 500 acres of corn owned by two farmers, behind a private levee near Malta Bend. The water will now fill in and cover this corn and push against the Malta Bend levee. After fighting for 8 days to save the first levee, they are now concentrating their efforts on the main levee. It protects about 5,000 acres of crops.

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mtown how old are you? In most places along the river those forest areas you remember have been gone for close to a century. Some of those bottom lands are also man-made as late ninteenth and early twentieth century farmers built out into the river helping to change the river's course.

Nana you are right that those are flood plains and people should not be building homes there, but we also build in earthquake zones. Much of southern California is desert or semi-arid lands that regularly have fires. Some plants have even evloved to reproduce using the fires, so people shouldn't be building homes there either. What are we gonna do about it? Some people live in those area because they have no choice (too poor to move). There is no part of the country that is 100% safe. How is it any different than people who choose certain lifestyles that impact health, or can't afford it to begin, and yet we argue about national healthcare. Should we also be arguing for some sort of nation homeowner's insurance? Should we put restrictions on where people can live?

Cheesehead the environment changes over time. There is nothing that we as humans can do to stop it. All we can do is speed up the change or slow it down. Did you see the recent Harvard research that says that over the last decade world-wide temperatures have levelled off? One of the possible reasons, suggested was a result of China's pollution helps to modify pollution from other parts of the world. So is human pollution good or bad?

-- Posted by inthemiddle on Tue, Jul 19, 2011, at 10:11 AM

Thanks Marcia. I appreciate you informative response.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sat, Jul 16, 2011, at 12:53 PM

Oklahoma Reader,

Yes, it is part of what you call the first bottom. Today most likely people call it the "plains" or "flats" and the "bottoms."

I've heard people say if the water ever gets to the town of Malta Bend (which is in the plains high above the river) then we all better get an ark! I was told by a soil scientist that the Plains are actually a glacier bottom.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Fri, Jul 15, 2011, at 11:44 PM

My Grandfather owned a farm directly north of Malta Bend, my Dad grew up there. I recall that they used phrases first bottom, and second bottom. The family farm was "second bottom". Second bottom was more valuable, first bottom they thought less of. Are those terms still used today? Can anyone precisely explain the difference? Are the areas now flooding first bottom?

Just curious.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Fri, Jul 15, 2011, at 12:39 PM

My thoughts and prayers are for the farmers, residents and volunteers who own land in the bottoms and for those who are helping to try to save it. It's hard work sandbagging, and dangerous when your near the levee's, and with these temps...my heart goes out to you.

-- Posted by MBGAL on Fri, Jul 15, 2011, at 7:53 AM

Remember when the trees and forest stretch over 5 miles to each side of the river, and the people that settled in this area would farm outside of that "boundary"? Wonder if there was a reason for that?

-- Posted by mtownresident on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 7:24 AM

oldschool17 -

As Eric said, one doesn't work the way these people have worked if a flood is so lucrative. First, the ground we are talking about is in the MB bottoms and is not the same ground that brought over $10,000 an acre recently. That ground is in the plains - far above the Missouri River. Second, crop insurance costs more for bottom land and none of the farmers I talked to were able to afford full coverage. Third - Please do your homework. The crop insurance most farmers buy is enterprise units, which ties all the farmers land together as one and crop insurance is paid if the yields altogether are below a certain percentage. With crops (including those that are now drowning) looking so good this year it is likely to be a very good year in other areas. So therefore, their average may very well be over the yield where crop insurance pays. Fourth - the damage the water will do is one thing - but everything left behind in the flood, including sand, can ruin these farmers fields for ever. If they are unlucky enough to have land near where a levee blows, they may never farm that land again. But they still have to pay off their loans for that land.

These farmers have already paid for all the inputs for their crops, however, they will get nothing in return this year and maybe in years to come.

Maybe you should go volunteer sandbag and see how "easy" they have it.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 9:32 AM

Just curious, oldschool17. If bottoms farmers have nothing to lose, why do you suppose they have continued sand bagging day after day on ever-softening levees, working desperately to keep the river from engulfing their land?

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 8:32 AM

If your a farmer in the bottoms and don't own some type of flood insurance for your crops and property than your an idiot. All of these farmers will get compensated and will all be just fine! If not, you could get $10,000 a acre and still be doing just fine.

It's been global warming and we'll melt out world down to nothing, now all of a sudden it's getting colder?

-- Posted by oldschool17 on Mon, Jul 11, 2011, at 8:13 AM

The climate is changing so we should expect more of this in the years to come, but who cares about that? We will just defund the EPA and listen to Fox news about the Enviroment after all they know best.

-- Posted by cheesehead on Sun, Jul 10, 2011, at 4:47 PM

One big question: If the snow season in the Rockies is again long and produces large snowpacks, will the Corps do it again - save the snowmelt and release it late? At a June conference in New Mexico, scientists released three types of measurements showing a trend toward lower solar activity. While modern measurements are more detailed and sophisticated, 400 years of sunspot counts show low activity correlated with cold and snow. Washington's cold winter at Valley Forge is an example. Can the Corps handle cooling when their manual doesn't factor in that possibility?

-- Posted by former editor on Sun, Jul 10, 2011, at 8:11 AM

"Why does the corp keep opening the dam to flood here?"

They have to open the dam in a controlled fashion or it will go over anyhow (and still flood here) or possibly risking the dam breaking from the pressure and still have flooding here. They do not control how much it snowed in the North or the rain.

-- Posted by landreth on Sat, Jul 9, 2011, at 9:33 PM

Why does the corp keep opening the dam to flood here? Do they think we don't matter? The Malta Bend bottom is the most valuable farmland in the US. Google it and see. Farmers are getting screwed. They will in no way get compensated for their losses. The government works in strange ways.

-- Posted by Pasta on Fri, Jul 8, 2011, at 4:58 PM

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