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Midwest’s Levees, Land Use Questioned Amid Floods

More than two dozen levees along the Mississippi and its tributaries have broken under heavy flooding, leaving many communities questioning the region's levee system and land usage. Elizabeth Brackett reports from Illinois on the struggle to keep levees standing.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now, managing the levees of the Mississippi.

    Local authorities are reporting the river appears to be cresting in Missouri and Illinois, but the damage is extensive. More than two dozen levees along the Mississippi and its tributaries have been topped or breached in the last week, stretching from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Quincy, Illinois, to Lincoln County, Missouri.

    NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW-Chicago has a Science Unit report on the competing demands.

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour Correspondent:

    The bulldozers have been pushing sand up the 54-mile Sny Levee for weeks. The stakes are high. The Sny Levee protects 125,000 acres of towns and farmland just below Quincy, Illinois, on the Mississippi River.

    Everyone here remembers 1993, when the Sny failed, resulting in a $37 million loss. It was that memory that spurred on all who worked to shore up the levee this time, says Commissioner Russell Koeller.

  • RUSSELL KOELLER, Commissioner, Sny Levee:

    So far, we've weathered it. And if we are — we're getting really close to being victorious. I use that word, because that's the kind of feeling, but it's going to be a little bit bittersweet, because part of the reason we might be successful is because our neighbors just upstream took losses. And so that mutes our joy about it.

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