Flood Special Part 1: Tri-State levee expert's plan to combat the next major flood


    John Winkleman owns more than 400 acres of land just north of Canton, Missouri. The land, full of corn and soybeans, has belonged to his family for more than 140 years. He said atop the Gregory Levee that he's fearful about another major flood like the area saw in '93.

    This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the flood of 1993.

    Next month marks the 25th anniversary of the West Quincy levee break.

    Twenty-five years later, area levee experts are frustrated there is still no plan for the Upper Mississippi area to fight another flooding event such as the one that happened in 1993.

    Some Tri-State landowners, such as John Winkleman, believe a water easement is part of the best solution possible to combat future flooding.

    Winkleman owns more than 400 acres of land just north of Canton, Missouri.

    The land, full of corn and soybeans, has belonged to his family for more than 140 years.

    He said he's fearful about another major flood like the area saw in '93.

    "We have no idea when that's going to happen," Winkleman explained. "Here we are, same scenario in 93. No further protection. We're in the same place waiting for another disaster to happen."

    "We could do a much better job than what we did in '93," Upper Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri Rivers Association president Mike Klingner said. "We were unprepared."

    The Flood of '93 caused 47 deaths, displaced 74,000 people and caused $15 billion dollars in damages.

    Klingner said in today's world, damages would surpass $30 billion.

    Both Klingner and Winkleman agree a comprehensive plan is needed.

    Not every levee can be 100 or 500-year status.

    The Gregory Levee north of Canton is only 50 years.

    It would need another three feet [of dirt] and free board to reach that status.

    That's not an option.

    That's why landowners say just let the water in.

    Those landowners have more than 8,200 acres in the Mississippi Fox Levee District #2.

    That's roughly $2.6 million dollars worth of crops that could be destroyed during major flooding.

    "I don't want to lose crops either. That's a big risk," Winkleman explained. "You are only paid once a year as a farmer and that's harvest. If you have nothing to harvest, you have zero income. That's where the flood easement could help a farmer through if he or she is willing to take on the water and reduce the risk to others."

    The breach that triggered most of the destruction happened in West Quincy in July 1993.

    Flood water covered more than 100,000 acres of land in just under 12 hours.

    There is an effort underway to secure federal funding for water easement to combat a future flood event.

    "How do we compensate, and how do we get to that agreement so we can convey a major flood?" Klingner asked. "That little piece is what we need to work on."

    "We want to help others along the river," Winkleman shared. "We have friends on both sides of the river. Those who hunt Lima lake. We go to church with them. We helped them recover from the flood of 93. It's a reciprocating thing."

    "There's no question we are going to have another flood event like 1993 and 2008," Klingner said with confidence. "It's not a matter of if, it's when and we need to plan for it ."

    Klingner continues his work on the CRP payment with the USDA.

    He said he hopes a plan can be worked out with Congress this fall.

    Additional coverage of Tri-State levees

    David produced an in-depth series on Tri-State levees in November 2017 to determine the current state of levee districts throughout the Tri-States.

    The series gained the attention of Scott Whitney. He serves as Flood Risk Manager and Project Management Chief for the Rock Island District of the Corps of Engineers. He sat down with David for an exclusive interview.

    Whitney breaks down why some levee districts struggle to flood fight and what the corps hopes to achieve to prepare Tri-State levees for the next major flood event. You can watch that exchange in Part 3.

    Part 1 Tri-State levees battle higher river levels and fierce regulations

    Tri-State levees along the Mississippi River face two fights right now. The first is the threat of a future flood. The second is extensive regulations that keep levee districts from offering more protection for residents and thousands of acres of farmland and industry.

    Part 2: Corps of Engineers talks solution for future flooding.

    KHQA's David Amelotti spoke with Dennis Hamilton with the U.S. Corps of Engineers out of the Rock Island District. Hamilton said a plan is in action on the part of the Corps of Engineers but it will take time.

    Part 3: Rock Island District, Corps of Engineers responds to Tri-State levee concerns

    KHQA's David Amelotti sat down with Scott Whitney to get answers. He's Chief of Project Management and Flood Risk Manager for the Rock Island District of the Corps of Engineers.

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