The 1995 Flood
These included setting back levees, limiting levees to elevations similar to adjacent levees and consideration of a two-tier levee system. The suggestions were intended to allow continued use of the fertile floodplains for farming, prevent damaging sand deposits and scouring of valuable crop land, and reduce the high cost to society of future buy-outs and levee wars.
Some progress has been made. Of the recommendations, only land purcha ses from willing sellers has had an impact.
In March, 1994 the Conservation Department moved to help those who wanted out of the floodplain. Ten million dollars was taken out of construction and other capital improvement budgets and pledged to a buy-out program. Only a small portion of this money has been spent.
The Conservation Department has purchased three major areas with the flood buyout money, including most of one levee district. The biggest floodplain tract is 2,060 acres and was purchased for $1,460,652. Another area, totaling 1,221 acres, cost $309,584, and the third tract, a floodplain site where levees were destroyed in 1993, totals almost 1,000 acres and cost $454,800. More open spaces like these will help moderate crests on future floods, lessen economic losses in floods, provide wetlands for wildlife, and fishing and hunting opportunities for Missourians.
Some Missouri River floodplain lands were purchased when the Missouri Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wi ldlife Service teamed with farmers and other landowners to establish the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge on flood damaged land in central Missouri.
Some people interested in selling their damaged lands turned down offers by the Conservation Department after they saw damaged levees quickly restored and were encouraged by a good crop year in 1994. By the spring of 1995 the line of willing sellers had dried up. Quite a bit of the money the Conservation Department pledged for purchase of flood damaged lands after the `93 flood remains available to help those who want to get out of the floodplain.
The devastating floods of 1993 and 1995 pose questions to society: Can we continue trying to conquer so mighty a resource, when floods and destruction are the result? Can we instead manage the river for multiple uses, such as agriculture, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, drinking water and tourism for Missouri communities?
These and other invaluable commodities can continue to be the river's gift to society if we choose to respect them. The respect entails providing adequate floodways, enjoying the rivers' recreational and habitat value and, above all, treating the rivers as a great natural system to be cared for, not conquered.
This issue of the Conservationist invites you to enjoy what our state's big rivers have to offer.