POPLAR BLUFF (AP) - The damaged agricultural levee protecting the southern Missouri town of Poplar Bluff failed a federal inspection after a 2008 flood, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Tony Hill, chief of the emergency management office for the Army Corps' office in Little Rock, Ark., said the levee protecting farmland and homes near Poplar Bluff from the rain-swollen Black River received an "unacceptable" rating - the lowest of three rankings the Corps gives to levees. The levee was breached and overtopped in the 2008 flooding, Hill said.
Hill said the private district that operates the levee was unable to make repairs. Because the problems weren't adequately addressed, the levee no longer qualifies for a Corps program that provides money for flood-related repairs.
Water from the Black River is flowing over the top of the levee, which was breached in one spot Monday. The flood danger has displaced about 1,000 people and put homes in and around the small town in danger.
Hill said an "unacceptable" rating can be caused by a number of factors, but the reasons for the rating weren't immediately known Tuesday.
"It's very common throughout the United States for levees to be rated unacceptable," Hill said. "It's a systemic problem we have with the way levees are managed or actually not managed in the United States. What has happened is these levee authorities just do not have the funds to keep the maintenance up to speed on those levees. They may have the money to mow it every other year or a couple of times a year but to do any major repairs that entail moving dirt or major contract resources they just don't have the money to do that."
He said part of the problem is many of the levees are more than 50 years old.
A 2009 Corps report shows three other levees in the same county also failed inspections.