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Corps of Engineers cautions against driving on levees

Published May 12, 2011
MEMPHIS, Tenn., May 12, 2011 – Driving on Mississippi River levees is extremely dangerous
and could potentially lead to structural problems, according to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of

“We have received reports that people are driving on the slopes or tops of Federal levees in this
area,” Steve Barry, the Corps of Engineers’ Emergency Manager in Memphis said. “With the levee
system under extreme stress due to the current flooding, this activity is producing increased seepage
under the levee, additional sand boils and erosion. At the very least, these will make it necessary for
local authorities to make costly repairs once the flood is over.”

Local levee board leaders have asked that residents obey “Road Closed” signs they have posted.
They have also expressed concerns about drivers who have driven on levee slopes to go around gates or to launch boats into the river.

“People are getting stuck on the already saturated levee slopes, then rutting up the ground trying
to get free,” Barry said. “Actions like these lead to increased seepage problems.”

Barry said there is no problem with citizens who have a legitimate reason to be on the levees.
“The Corps strongly discourages anyone from driving on the levees for sightseeing,” he said.

Additionally, if people drive on the slopes of levees while trying to maneuver around gates or
other structures they could easily lose control and slide into the very dangerous river.

“The river is flowing at 14.5 million gallons per second past Memphis right now,” Barry said. “It
would be difficult to survive an accident involving a vehicle going into the water.”

Barry said under some circumstance, individuals could be personally liable for damage they or
their vehicles caused to Federal levees. Ignoring “Road Closed” signs or causing damage may also make them liable for prosecution under the River and Harbors Act (33 USC 408).

“There are many safe locations to watch the river from during this flood, but please stay
off the levees unless you have a really good reason to be there,” Barry said.
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Release no. 11-20