JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday in an attempt to stop it from destroying a southeast Missouri levee protecting valuable farmland from the rising Mississippi River.
Koster said the corps is preparing to intentionally breach the levee at Birds Point in Mississippi County in order to relieve upstream pressure on a different levee protecting the Illinois town of Cairo. A decision on whether to detonate the levee is expected Tuesday afternoon.
Koster said the levee's destruction would cause flooding of up to 130,000 acres of land -- an area stretching 30 miles north to south and as much as 8 to 10 miles wide at certain points. The floodwaters would leave a layer of silt on farmland that could take a generation to clear and also could damage 100 homes, Koster said.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also has been outspoken against the corps' proposal to break the Missouri levee. During an unrelated bill signing event in Kansas City, Nixon told reporters Tuesday he was concerned the corps is "trying to solve the entire watershed pressure on the back of Missouri farmers and Missouri communities" and should instead explore other methods of relieving pressure on the levees.
"The levees were built to withstand floods, and so far there has not been a single levee on the Mississippi River in our state that has been overtopped, and they've remained strong," Nixon said.
The federal lawsuit by the Missouri attorney general also was filed on behalf of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which regulates environmental issues in the state.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)