The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Commissioners Move Forward To Clear Water From U.S. 34

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner

Since the June 17th breach and loss of Highway 34, it seems that several meetings with all the top officials have not been moving flood waters off Highway 34 or out of flooded homes and fields fast enough and District Commissioners have been taking the heat.

Monday night, Levee Commissioners in District 2, (Mark Ford, Mike Ford, and Larry Russell) along with help from others, decided to take matters into their own hands.

They walked "The Duck," a backhoe that can float on water and was used to repair the railroad breach near Gladstone, over to the breached levee south of Carthage Lake, and began opening up a long area along the river front that was keeping water from running into the river.

At a meeting a week ago Monday, June 30, Michael Tarpey, the Civil Engineer assigned to the project here, had said that the Corps would be breaking the levees in the next couple days to let gravity take water out.

There was about 78 billion gallons of water to drain out at that time, and he said it would take over 500 days to pump it out. His idea was to cut open a couple of spots in the levee and let gravity do the work, and the river could take it out in less than two weeks.

At that time it was falling about 8 inches a day according to BNSF Vice President of Engineering Dave Hestermann of Houston, Texas, who was there to make sure their trains were back in full operation by July 3rd.

But since BNSF railroad repairs have been completed, drainage has slowed.

It has been over a week, and as of print time, there is still no word that the Corp had ordered a cut in the levees.

After District #2 got things going at Carthage Lake, District #1 Commissioners (George Torrance, Scott Walters, and Russell Torrance) moved into action late Tuesday afternoon to bring equipment to Gulfport and do the same there.

Their idea was more aggressive for the Gulfport area since the levee there is not breached.

Gulfport is the lowest area in the county, officials said at the meeting, and after each flooding, water always has always had to be pumped out.

The Commissioners plan in District #1 involved working all night Tuesday through today (Wednesday) until they have made a 30 to 40 foot wide and 6 foot deep opening that is around 300 foot long along the river just north of the Great River Bridge, thus allowing a lot of water out of the District.

District #2 Commissioners explained to the Corps and IEMA what they had done on Monday evening, and they were surprised.

When it came to Gulfport, District #1 Commissioners made the decision on what to do with the Corps' assistance.

Senator John Sullivan had called twice and when he heard, thought it was a "cool idea," they said.

Marty Lafary County Chairman in charge of operations for disasters in the county told officials he wanted to do everything he could to get Highway 34 open and people who are stranded in Iowa, back to their homes in Illinois.

He also told Congressman Hare that putting the levee back to the 500 year flood stage is needed to prevent major disruptions along U.S. 34, BNSF, a major railway, as well as homes and businesses affected in this area.

Hastermann and Hare agreed and the Congressman said they needed to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

"The Duck" sitting at the Carthage Lake Breach is waiting for its next operator that will walk it back out through the trees and to the river's edge where it is opening up a 1-1/2 foot wall that is holding back water from draining into the river in Henderson County's District #2. -photo by Dessa Rodeffer

David Hestermann, BNSF Assistant V.P. of Engineering (left); Richard Bigger, H.C. Democratic Chair; Scott Walters, Rusty Torrance, Commissioners; Michael Tarpey-Civil Engineer U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Rock Island District Corps Colonel Robert Sinkler; U.S. Congressman Phil Hare-District 17; Gail Russell- County Board; Marty Lafary County Board Chairman Head of Diasters;, Mark Ford, George Torrance, and Larry Russell - Commissioners at a meeting June 30th.