Continued spring rains have resulted in higher than normal water on Lake Shelbyville and the Army Corps of Engineers have opened the dam gates, sending the water farther down the Kaskaskia River.
“There is so much water coming into the watershed system,” said Lake Shelbyville assistant manager Jon Summers. “We’re trying not to allow the water levels to come up too much.”
Lake level Thursday morning was 609.13 feet and is expected to crest just under 610 feet on Friday, barring additional rainfall.
“The level is higher than normal for this time of the year. We are planning everything we have to do here for 610 feet,” Summers said. Normal pool for this date is 596 feet. Normal summer pool is 599.7 feet.
Summers said there is no flooding in campgrounds, but some of the access roads have standing water. Signs and barricades are being put up as needed. High water boat ramps will be opened at 610 feet. Summers also warns those using the lake and river to be careful of floating debris that the flooding has washed into the water.
The dam is releasing water at 4200 cubic feet per second (cfs) creating some flooding conditions downstream on the Kaskaskia. Inflow from the creeks and streams into the lake is 7000 cfs.
Summers added that the Corps has been in contact with farmers downstream who will experience flooding and they have allowed it. No crops have been planted at this time.
Lake Shelbyville was built as part of a system to help control the water levels on the Mississippi River, a main component in the trade system.
Floodwaters were rising to record levels along the Illinois River in central Illinois. In Missouri, six small levees north of St. Louis were overtopped by the surging Mississippi River, though mostly farmland was affected.
The Mississippi and Illinois rivers have crested in some places, but that doesn’t mean the danger is over. The National Weather Service predicts a very slow descent, thanks in part to the additional rain expected to amount to an inch or so across several Midwestern states.
“The longer the crest, definitely, the more strain there is on the levee,” said Mike Petersen, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.
The Mississippi River crest was still a couple of days away in Dutchtown, Mo., a town of about 100 residents 110 miles south of St. Louis. Town clerk and emergency management director Doyle Parmer said about three dozen members of the Missouri National Guard were helping residents sandbag. He was confident the few homes and businesses would remain dry.
In St. Louis, crews scrambled to stem the flow of millions of gallons of raw sewage that has been pouring into the river since two of three pumps failed at a treatment plant two days earlier.
The plant processes some 110 million gallons of sewage a day; about half of that was being discharged into the river untreated. Many communities downriver draw their drinking water from the Mississippi.