U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Doesn’t Stop Levee Break that Would Flood Farmland, Save Town


Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. refused to issue an order Sunday evening blocking U.S. officials from breaking a levee in an effort to save a small Illinois town.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the break, which will flood 130,000 acres of farmland in his state to avoid flooding in Cairo, Ill. The Associated Press, Bloomberg and the New York Times have stories. The Mississippi and Ohio rivers are at their highest levels since 1937. They merge near Cairo, a town of about 3,000 residents that has already been evacuated because of the flood threat.

Flooding the farmland, which includes about 100 homes, will cause about $314 million in damage, compared to $1.7 billion in damage if the levee breaks or overflows in other areas, Bloomberg says.

One Saturday, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with its plans.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. had refused to issue a temporary restraining order on Friday, citing an 8th Circuit ruling issued in 1984 finding that Congress gave the Corps broad discretion in flood control decisions, the Associated Press reported in a story at the time. He also questioned whether farmers had given the Corps easements to their property that permitted the flooding, according to another Associated Press story.

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