Small Town America Flooded – Pinhook Missouri

Today I want to write about something close to my heart. I live in a very big city, but grew up in small town America. I lived in what some call a river town in the Missouri Delta what is known as Pinhook Missouri. I know. Where is that? It sits somewhere between St. Louis and Memphis along the Mississippi River. Right now, because of all the rain, this small town that is caught up in a legal battle with the Army Corp. of Engineers who want to breach a levee. If they breach this levee, this small town/community will cease to exist.

Back in the 1950’s, maybe even further back, from what my family tells me, the banks would only sell this land to black families who farmed. This land sits in what is known as a spillway. The spillway is called this because the Mississippi River and the Ohio River back up in this area and overflow onto the land and cause flooding. Sometimes the farmers lose their crops when this occurs. There is much farmland in these areas, according to the  Army Corp. of engineers about 130,000 acres of land.

Over the years, a project was developed to close a 1500 foot gap in the levee in this region which is the Birds Point/New Madrid area. Most people have  heard of New Madrid because of the fault line that sits near here. We hear about the big earthquake that may hit near here. These are two different issues, however a catastrophic earthquake could potentially destroy a levee I am sure. By closing the gap in the levee, it would let the water flow back into the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and keep the water off the farmland in the Pinhook Community, as well as the communities of Dorena, Windyville, Cairo, IL, and others to name a few.

After the Army Corp. of Engineers did their studies, along with the EPA and others, the cost of the project was a few million dollars. It came to light that they wanted the farming communities to pay for half of the project. The people who live here are not rich by any means and don’t have this kind of money. From what we know, I don’t think people in other communities in other states were asked to pay. So the gap was never repaired. This fight to get it fixed has gone on for years. As a child, we had to move from our homes in 1973, 1974, and 1975. I do believe in 1976 we all decided to remain as a group and hang tight.

One of my relatives spoke before the US Senate again asking for assistance to close the gap in the levee and for the federal assistance that was promised to the people of the community in 2002. Again, to no avail.  He passed away never seeing any relief.

Today, there is a court battle brewing to stop the Army Corp. of Engineers from destroying Pinhook, Dorena and Windyville. If the Army Corp. of Engineers breaches the levee, a 15 foot wall of water will wash away my childhood, my home. I doubt there would be anything left. It leaves me to wonder if they just want this land. Most of the people who live there are not rich by any stretch, but comfortable. They have their homes and their land. What happens after they destroy it?  Today, there aren’t many left in this area.. By the picture I post, you can see how many are left. Doesn’t mean it needs to be destroyed….

(written Apr. 29. 2011)


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