ST. LOUIS, Mo. (AP) -- A federal appeals court refused Saturday to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from blowing a hole through a Mississippi River levee in Missouri to try to prevent flooding in a small Illinois town.
The decision made by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for the Corps of Engineers to use explosives to breech the Birds Point levee. The ruling is the second setback in as many days for the state of Missouri, which had asked the court to stop the agency's plan.
The Corps of Engineers is considering using explosives to blow a 2-mile-wide hole through the levee in southeast Missouri's Mississippi County, arguably to ease waters rising around the upstream town of Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
But the plan also could flood tens of thousands of acres of farmland in southeast Missouri. Many residents of the sparsely populated area started moving out Friday.
Army Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said Saturday that the agency hasn't decided whether to go through with its plan.
A federal judge on Friday gave the agency the go-ahead to break the levee, deeming it appropriate to ensure navigation and flood-control along the still-rising Mississippi River. Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee want the corps to move forward with the plan, but Missouri sought a temporary restraining order to block the detonation.
The river's crest at the Cairo flood wall could reach 60.5 feet -- a foot above its record high -- as early as Sunday and stay at that level before slowly retreating by Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Cairo's wall protects the town up to 64 feet, but there is concern the lingering crest could put extra pressure on it and earthen levees protecting other parts of the city.
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