The New Madrid Floodway

Deer in flooded Mississippi River

The New Madrid Floodway is one of four designated flood zones along the Mississippi River. When the River's levels get too high, threatening communities, the Floodway is opened to capture the overflow. On May 2, 2011 the Army Corps of Engineers opened and flooded the 130,000-acre New Madrid Floodway for the first time since 1937, saving the city of Cairo, IL and other towns from catastrophic flooding.

What is the New Madrid Levee Project?

The New Madrid Levee Project is a controversial Army Corps of Engineers plan to build a 60 foot high, quarter-mile long levee to plug the bottom of the New Madrid Floodway, which is currently open to the Mississippi River. The project's main purpose is to protect agricultural interests within the Floodway.

This gap in the sprawling levee system is the last remaining area in Missouri where the Mississippi River connects to its floodplain. This now-rare river-floodplain connection filters pollution, stores floodwaters, and sustains some of the most productive fish and wildlife habitat in the lower Mississippi River.

Severing the New Madrid Floodway from the Mississippi River with this proposed levee would impact 50,000 acres of precious wetlands within the Floodway causing devastating consequences to fish and wildlife resources while exposing communities to greater flood risk.

Impacts on Wildlife and People

Least Tern

The Floodway's wetlands serve as habitat for millions of animals and migratory birds and important spawning and nursery haven for the 91 species of fish of the lower Mississippi River. Some of the species that depend on the clean water and habitat of the Floodway include:

  • Endangered least tern
  • Bald eagles 
  • White-tailed deer
  • Bobwhite quail
  • Swamp rabbit

Millions of sportsmen and women and wildlife enthusiasts from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois come to this region each year bringing valuable recreation dollars to the states' budgets.

National Wildlife Federation is working to prevent this project from moving forward to protect communities from increased flooding threats and the crucial wildlife and wetlands of the region by:

  • Educating local communities on flood risks
  • Working with public officials to prevent the Corps from violating environmental laws
  • Reforming the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program
  • Modernizing the Management of the Mississippi River

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