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Farmer Happy to Tell "Hole" Story About NRCS Assistance

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Farmer Happy to Tell "Hole" Story About NRCS Assistance

Raymond McNeall on his repaired levee in Chariton County.Chariton County farmer Raymond McNeall is happy that the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program helped him repair a 150-foot hole in his levee along the Chariton River so quickly.

Now he and several adjoining landowners can plant crops on their land just north of Highway 24 and east of the river with confidence that the land will be protected from flooding. The repair also returns a 1.4-acre, 14-foot-deep hole to a farmable condition, and protects the highway right of way near the bridge crossing the river. McNeall says a side benefit is that the repairs at the highly visible site answer a lot of questions.

"I (frequently) had people asking what I was going to do,"McNeall says.

It was a good question. When the Chariton River flooded in June 2008, McNeall's levee overtopped, covering the cropland and trapping the water within the levee system designed to protect the cropland. As the river level dropped, the saturated levee gave way before the trapped water could be released through drainage pipes built into the system. The water rushing out to the river scoured the field and carved the deep hole.

Remembering that it once took about two years before a Missouri River levee break (that was not eligible for EWP) was repaired, McNeall worried about how long his farm and other farms in the area would be without flood protection. But with the assistance of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and its EWP program, work began November 19, 2008, to fill the hole and repair two sections of levee totaling 1,125 feet. The work was completed on December 10.

Mike Snellen, NRCS resource conservationist in Chariton County, says it required nearly 30,000 cubic yards of soil to fill the hole and rebuild the levee. He says NRCS staff conducted an extensive topographic survey of the field using Global Positioning System equipment. The survey helped NRCS determine how much soil would be needed to repair the site and the best sites from which to excavate the soil. The agency also did the engineering work associated with the project, and paid 75 percent of the projects' 80,600 cost. McNeall was responsible for the remaining costs, and he and Drainage District No. 4 used their own funds to place 1,300 tons of rock on the river side of the levee to further stabilize it.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the way it worked,"McNeall says. "I know about government red tape and how long things can take, but the way NRCS worked this, it was really good and very timely. The ground was too wet to do anything for awhile, but when they got an opening in the weather, they pushed it right through. We're back to where we were with levee protection. We're in good shape."

Karen Brinkman, NRCS area conservationist for northeastern Missouri, says EWP is designed to provide technical and financial assistance to reduce hazards to life and property from floods, ice storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, or other watershed impairments caused by a natural event.

The broken levee before it was repairedTypical work in Missouri includes repair of floodplain levees, removal of sediment and debris from drainageways, removal of logjams that cause significant problems, and streambank protection near public facilities. Sponsors must be the state, a legal subdivision of the state, a local unit of government, a levee or drainage district, or a county commission.

The Chariton County Commission sponsored the project on McNeall's property. The county had no financial responsibility for the project, but the commission's support was critical in getting the project completed.

"This is a good example of what we can do with local sponsors and landowners working together,"Brinkman says. "A project like this helps multiple people."

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