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Failing US Infrastructure: Breached Missouri Levee Failed Inspection

POPLAR BLUFF, Missouri — The damaged agricultural levee protecting the southern Missouri town of Poplar Bluff failed a federal inspection after a 2008 flood.

Kasey Medley, right, stands on the front porch of her flooded home with her friend Erica Cass on Tuesday in Poplar Bluff. Powerful storms that swept through the nation's midsection have pushed river levels to dangerous heights and are threatening to flood several towns in Missouri, and officials now report a levee protecting Poplar Bluff from the Black River has breached. (AP) Tony Hill, chief of the emergency management office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Little Rock, Ark., told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the levee protecting farmland and homes near Poplar Bluff from the rain-swollen Black River received an "unacceptable" rating in 2008.

That's the lowest of three rankings the Corps gives to levees.

Hill said the private district that operates the levee was unable to make repairs. Because the problems weren't 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 the levee was breached in several spots and overtopped in the 2008 flooding.

Hill said an "unacceptable" rating can be caused by a number of factors, but the reasons for the rating weren't immediately known Tuesday.

He said the rating is common to smaller levees, and he called it a "systemic problem." He said many levees are more than 50 years old and the districts that manage them don't have enough money to maintain them.

A 2009 Corps report shows three other levees in the same county also failed inspection.

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