Hannibal Courier-Post

Local farmers avoid flooding issues

Local farmers avoid flooding issues
The Hannibal area has avoided any major Mississippi River flooding issues this year, unlike in year's past.
Mike Thomas/Courier-Post
By MIKE THOMAS
Courier-Post Sports Editor
mthomas@courierpost.com
Posted: May. 20, 2020 11:31 am Updated: May. 20, 2020 11:35 am

Unlike in past years, local farmers have avoided any major Mississippi River flooding issues this year.

Although a flood warning was issued for the Mississippi River early this week, the river is expected to crest at 16.1 feet, which is just above the flood stage of 16.0 feet. It is nowhere near last year's flooding, which crested at nearly 29 feet.

Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District board member Kenny Lovelace said the region was able to avoid snow melt from Minnesota, which led to the flooding in 2019.

“There were some fields here along LaGrange that were flooded for awhile (earlier in the year), but as of right now, everything is pretty decent,” Lovelace said. “It's been a little wet trying to get crops in. As far as flooding, we haven't had a problem.

Lovelace owns a farm north of Palmyra, and said flooding has caused him some problems over the years.

“Even though I'm a hill farmer, we've got livestock and we have what they call water gaps and they're fairly good size,” Lovelace said. “We have to either run electric wire or put panels in to keep cattle in at the cricks. If we get a six-inch rain or a even a three-inch rain that comes fast enough and we didn't fix it, it would let cattle out.”

Brent Hoerr owns a farm at the Mississippi Bottoms, north of Palmyra and across the river from Quincy, Ill. Two of the worst floods he has dealt with was last year's flood and The Great Flood of 1993.

Hoerr said he has not had any issues farming this year from heavy rainfalls and flooding.

“The forecast this past week kind of made me a little anxious, but fortunately we missed a lot of the heavy rains,” Hoerr said. “That can cause a lot of damage when it happens, and (with) everything else going on with the markets, things like that would cause me to be a little anxious of what could potentially happen if we got major flooding.”

While Hoerr's farm avoided disaster, he worries that it may affect other farmer's crops and houses.

“I'm breathing a sigh of relief that we dodged a bullet, but sometimes you realize someone else got hit with the crosshairs and that's not a good feeling either,” Hoerr said. “It's always something in the back of your mind that you are thinking about consciously or non-consciously, you are farming in an area with a chance of flooding.”

Since last year's flooding, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has worked to repair levees on the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

“As far as I know, they are getting the levees patched and are making pretty good progress the way it sounds,” Lovelace said.

Following last year's flooding, Gov. Mike Parson created the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group, which will release their final report of recommendations on May 31.

Members of Parson's group includes emergency management personnel, members of several state agencies, levee district officials and representatives from agricultural interest groups.

“Hopefully there are some systemic changes that we can do that help prevent some of the major flooding, rather if it's non-structured or structured changes,” Hoerr said. “There's a lot of recommendations and a lot of people working together, so from that point, it's good to have people together finding solutions.”

Hoerr said that the state of Missouri has good job working with the federal government in making repairs and helping farmers in the state.

“They are looking at root causes and really trying to get to the real issues to mitigate damages,” Hoerr said. “Not just throwing money at a problem. I'm really impressed with the state of Missouri and how (they are) identifying problems and coming up with solutions that's built up enough support and visibility that's led to changes.”

Besides the Mississippi River, area farmers also worry about flooding from Mark Twain Lake. 

Lovelace said it is a balancing act to make sure Mark Twain Lake is not too high to avoid flooding, but not too low because area towns get their drinking water from the lake.

“At the lake, I've been noticing they keep it down,” Lovelace said. “They kind of got caught a few years ago (by having) the lake too high, and they got a bunch of rain. What kills us is those six-inch rains that just comes in at one time.”