Missouri TMs two senators are reassuring farmers whose land was intentionally flooded that crop insurance and other aid will be made available to them."We are all united, doesn't matter what party we're in, to make sure that we restore this agricultural land to its best purpose, which is feeding so much of this world, Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D) Missouri told KRCG in a satellite interview. This is very rich and productive land and we want to make sure that it is not sacrificed as a result of this natural disaster."Republican Senator Roy Blunt TMs office says it has also been reassured that crop insurance and disaster assistance would be available to residents affected by the intentional breach of the Birds Point levee.The Army Corps of Engineers blew three holes in the Birds Point levee this week to relieve Mississippi river flooding in Cairo, Ill., and other nearby towns. Click here to watch video of the levee explosion.Experts say the decision to blast open the levee submerged more than 200 square miles of Missouri farmland has likely gouged away fertile topsoil, deposited mountains of debris to clear and may even hamper farming in some places for years.Wheat, corn and soybeans are grown in the area.The extent of the damage can't be accurately assessed until the floodwaters recede, and that could take months. The Missouri Farm Bureau said the damage will likely exceed $100 million for this year alone
A Southeast Missouri State University professor estimated Thursday that the Army Corps of Engineers' decision will cause Mississippi County, Mo., to lose more than 500 jobs and $93 million in revenue through the end of 2011.Missouri farmers below the detonated levee are worried that they will not be able to claim disaster assistance or crop insurance claims because it was a man-made flood. Also concerning to the farmers are floodway easements bought by the federal government back in the 1920s.A group of 25 farmers sued the federal government on Tuesday saying the easements do not adequately compensate them for their losses."We have gotten assurances that crop insurances will be paid, not just this year but in following years if in fact there are still problems, Senator McCaskill said. And there are other forms of assistance that will be available and all of us will be working together to make sure that assistance gets delivered as quickly as possible."Missouri Agriculture Director Jon Hagler has met with several farmers from the area and assured them that crop insurance will cover their losses, both for crops already in the ground and for those that had not yet been planted.Meanwhile, water is creeping nearer to the town of East Prairie on Friday and concerns were rising along with it.
Water from 22 inches of rain over the past two weeks is collecting in the St. John's Bayou Basin, where the town of 3,400 residents sits. The water can't drain into the Mississippi River because flood gates are closed at nearby New Madrid, where the water crested at a record level Thursday.
As a result, backwater is threatening to flood the town. Streets are wet in some parts of East Prairie, though so far, Mayor Kevin Mainord was unaware of any damage to homes. Pumps and sandbags are at the ready.
Mainord was hopeful the trouble would pass -- as long as the rain holds off.
"Right now the sun is shining and as long as it stays that way we'll be fine," Mainord said. "Our concern is we can't stand another big rain event like we've had over and over for the past two weeks."
Though the weather has dried out and the river levels are starting to fall in much of southeast Missouri, Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh of the Corps of Engineers cautioned that it is too early to become complacent.
"The flood fight is not over," Walsh said. "We have hundreds of engineers working right now in the field fighting floods. Our goal is to reduce risk to people living behind our levees."
The Mississippi River crested Thursday at 48.35 feet in New Madrid, a record, and it is expected to stay close to that level through the middle of next week. The river has already topped the previous record of 46 feet in Caruthersville and stood at 47.6 feet on Friday. A crest of 49.5 feet -- a half-foot below the top of the floodwall -- is now projected for early Monday. The National Weather Service previously expected the crest to occur Sunday.(The Associated Press contributed to this story)