Water Resources Engineering (WRE ) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Richard MacELrath makes this connection here…

The article Agricultural productivity loss a result of soil, crop damage from flooding was provided by the University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. This article was published on February, 18th, 2014 on sciencedaily.com. The article discusses the hydrologic changes caused by flooding on the Cache River is southwestern Illinois. The Cache River Basin, which covers over 615,000 acres, is responsible for draining and distributed surface water to the mighty Mississippi River. Unfortunately the recent flood of the Ohio River that occurred in May of 2011 has changed the functionality of the basin in terms of hydrologic properties. During this flood the Ohio River reached a record high of 332.2 feet above sea level. The flood left over 1000 acres of agricultural land flooded from a backup in the middle and lower Cache River Valley. This stagnant flood water distributed a coating of silt and clay that was composed of soil organic carbon and nitrogen as well as microbes and pathogens. The flood lasted until the middle of June. A few days after the initial flood, the Len Small Levee on the Mississippi River failed flooding an additional 30,000 acres of Illinois. A major result from these devastating floods was a loss in 4,500 acres of corn and 6,500 acres of soybeans in the Cache River Basin. The Soybean production was 1,200,000 bushels in 2010 but dropped to 865,000 in 2011. Although the flood had distributed nutrient rich soil to the area, other chemicals present and the timing of the flood contributed to the plant loss. As learned previously from Wurbs and James textbook, hydroclimatology is important because it examines the hydrologic cycle and can connect societal and economic impacts holistically. Some important information that was missing was what caused the Cache River to back up near the middle of the river. Also, when the last time the Len Small Levee last inspected or deemed safe for operation.

University of Illinois researcher Ken Olsen feels land use changes, diversion ditches and levees, loss of wetland/flood holding areas, and an ever changing climate have altered the hydrology fo the valley. Because of this, Olsen urges a reevaluation of the implementation of the Cache River Watershed Resource Plan completed in 1995. Some sources of concern are erosion, private property rights, continuation of government farm conservation programs, open flow of the Cache River, and dissemination of accurate and timely information throughout the watershed. In order for these areas to be addressed and improved, significant investments of human and financial resources are needed to reduce the potential for future flooding. This will prevent the economic burdens of lost crops for farmers as well as encourage them to stay in the river basin. These improvements will ultimately increase the safety for residents that live in the basin and provide a case study for other areas that are flood prone. (University of Illinois College of Agriculture)

Map of Cache River Valley in southern Illinois, including Bay Creek, Post Creek Cutoff, and breached Karnak levee.

Map of Cache River Valley in southern Illinois, including Bay Creek, Post Creek Cutoff, and breached Karnak levee.


K. R. Olson, L. W. Morton. Impacts of 2011 Len Small levee breach on private and public Illinois lands. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 2013; 68 (4): 89A DOI: 10.2489/jswc.68.4.89A

University of Illinois College of Agriculture, C. a. (n.d.). Retrieved 2 23, 14, from Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140218163120.htm