CLARKSVILLE, Mo. —
Flooding along the Mississippi doesn't have the impact today that it had during the Great Flood of 1993. Since then, thousands of homes have been bought out, so the flood plain in many places is largely green space. Other places have built better flood walls and levees.
But in flood-prone Clarksville, putting up permanent protection against the river is a non-starter, partly because it could cost millions of dollars the 442-person community can ill-afford without plenty of taxpayer help.
More importantly, Smiley and others say, building a flood wall would amount to sacrificing Clarksville's identity.
"The Mississippi River is out there, and we live on it," Smiley said in the town where 6,000 tons of sand has been crafted into the latest makeshift wall by locals, the National Guard and even prison inmates. "We are a tourist town, and part of that involves seeing and experiencing the river."
The hamlet is currently working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a master flood plan, and Smiley said one option involves buying a metallic, interlocking flood wall that doesn't require sand and can go up fast in a flood event. But that approach is expensive: A mile-and-a-half stretch would cost millions of dollars, not to mention the money needed for equipment to move it and places to store it.
Smiley and her Grafton counterpart, Tom Thompson, say erecting a levee could cause headaches for property owners by dispersing the water onto their land, much of it fields. But they acknowledge those concerns are secondary to the central objection — levees block river views.
"We feel the way we handle these floods is acceptable to us," Thompson said Monday from his 670-person town where the Mississippi was 10 feet above flood stage, swamping some basements and forcing lower-lying businesses in the kitschy downtown to close until the water recedes.