The impacts of 2011 induced levee breaches on agricultural lands of Mississippi River Valley

Kenneth R. Olson, Lois Wright Morton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To control the Mississippi River is a mighty task (Barry 1997), and the 2011 flooding of its alluvial valley was a reminder of just how difficult this task can be. Heavy snow melt and rainfall ten times greater than average across the eastern half of the 517,998 km2 (200,000 mi-2) Mississippi watershed in spring and early summer of 2011 produced one of the most powerful floods in the river's known history (USACE 2011). The water from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers arrived in the Cairo, Illinois, area (figure 1) at about the same time, straining the levees and floodwall system designed to confine the rivers and protect cities and farmlands. The deliberate breaching of the levees in the New Madrid Floodway below Cairo in May 2011 was a planned strategy to reduce water pressure and prevent levee failures where harm to human life might occur. The induced breach and the flooding of 53,824 ha (133,000 ac) of Missouri farmland resulted in the loss of 2011 crops and damage to future soil productivity. The strong current and sweep of water through the Birds Point, Missouri, breach created deep gullies, displaced tons of soil, and damaged irrigation equipment, farms, and home buildings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5A-10A
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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