Monday, June 26, 2006

Here we go again

Corps: Strengthening upper Miss. levees not worth the expense:
Beefing up levees along the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers to protect large tracts of agricultural land from especially rare but severe floods would be an unjustifiable expense of billions of dollars, according to a newly released U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study. The existing flood-protection system along nearly 1,100 river miles north of Cairo, Ill., generally holds its own most of the time, the corps has found. Building up levees to protect against a so-called 500-year flood would cost more than $8 billion, according to the study. Even upgrades to survive less-severe 100-year floods would cost roughly $3.7 billion, according to the corps' 109-page report, completed last month. Richard Astrack, project manager at the corps' St. Louis district office, said none of the levee upgrades considered in the report rated very high on the corps' benefit-to-cost ratio. "When you are looking at the system, there are already levees out there," Astrack said. "If we were starting from scratch and there was nothing there, and the United States said we want to protect tens of thousands of agricultural areas, acres, then maybe it would be a good idea to do this. But there are already substantial levees in places out there."

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