© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

St Joe Pumps Stymie River Rise

At  St.Joseph, MO., water is pumped up one  side of the southside levee, down into the Missouri  river on the other. (click to enlarge)
photos by dan verbeck
At St.Joseph, MO., water is pumped up one side of the southside levee, down into the Missouri river on the other. (click to enlarge)

By Dan Verbeck


St. Joseph, MO – The Missouri River at Northwest Missouri's largest city is forecast to rise a few more inches, then level off by mid week.

At St. Joseph early on the morning of July4th, the river stage stood at 28.8 feet. Flood stage is 17 feet.

The major battle has been getting rid of water building up on the inside of the river levees. KCUR's Dan Verbeck watched the operation of pumping out 52 million gallons a day.

Stretched out in a line, a bank of ten portable pumps, each half the size of a pickup truck, are perched on top of the levee between the southside industrial district and the Missouri River.

The rented pumps send out steady jets of murky water into the river. The pumps burn an estimated $5 thousand in fuel every day.

Teams of city workers keep pumps refueled and use a collection of smaller pumps to suck up interior drainage water. Hoses snake between grain silos at a milling company. They bend over railroad tracks.

The city's Assistant Public Works Director Andrew Clements says treated discharge from the municipal sewage treatment plant, purified enough to meet public health standards and requirements of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, can't reach the river in usual fashion because the river has risen above discharge pipes. Clements says, it has to be removed-- "and if the treatment plant can't function, it affects the health of all the residents here in St Joe. And also directly affects the ability of a lot of large industry in St. Joseph, and there are in the vicinity of 6 thousand jobs in that area of protection. And (there is) probably in the range of $800 million in investment down in that area."

Clements says the federal levee around the old stockyards and south industrial district has held against the force of the river. A mix of trained workers and National Guard troops are watching the levee 24 hours a day, against leaks and over topping.

Portions of North St. Joseph flooded. They were not protected by a federal levee.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.