Population Trends Shows Cairo Disappearing With or Without Flood

Categories: Environment, News
cairo illinois.JPG
Cairo: Stuck between a couple wet spots.
In 1950 the city of Cairo, Illinois, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, had 12,123 inhabitants. By 2010, just 2,831 called the city home. That's a decline of more than 76 percent in 60 years or a 12.6 percent loss per decade. More recently -- in the 1990s and 2000s -- Cairo's population declined by more than 20 percent between censuses.

Assuming that Cairo continues to lose population at the clip of 12.6 percent every ten years, the city will have just 736 residents a century from now. In 200 years, just 191 people will hang their hats in Cairo; and by 2411 just a dozen residents will remain. No one will be left by the year 2530.

That's worth contemplating today as the Army Corp of Engineers prepares to blast a hole in the levee south of Cairo that would flood hundred of thousands of acres of Missouri farmland and homes in order to save Cairo from the swelling rivers.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court declined Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's request to stop the Corp's plan.

One way or another, though, Cairo's fate seems certain. To which one wonders, should we keep it on life support -- at the expense of others -- or just let nature run its course?

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mssandy68
mssandy68

So was Wittenberg Missouri. At one time it had a hotel, bank, flour mill ,taverns ,grocery stores , a hardware store and a population of 800 people. River traffic use to stop there too. It is now a town with a population of 3. Levees and dams took their toll on our town as it did menfro and seventy six and any other little town that was considered to trivial to save.

Niel More
Niel More

The farmers need to take the hit....BUT

I consider this a "Taking of private property" by the government and the farmers need to be compensated (less any insurance) for BOTH crops and houses/barns/equipment.

Perhaps the people of Cairo will help contribute to the farmers demise if the Government does not!

hotdogwaffles
hotdogwaffles

except you missed that part where the farmers were paid by the government for the right to flood the farmer's land. So they already got paid... They just want some more.

Niel More
Niel More

yes, in 1927 the then owners of the land were paid $10-40/acre.

Hardly covers their investments in 2011 and how many new owners are there?

You make it sound like the farmers are greedy and are owed nothing. You could not be more wrong. Remember they grow your food or feed for your food.

Chris168
Chris168

I feel it is a shame to flood all that fertile productive farm ground to save a town that is not worth saving. Who decides these issues. They should have just let Cairo go under, it already has!!!!! So what if the farmers have flood insurance, that should not have made a difference in the decision making.

your mom's mom
your mom's mom

The most surprising thing about this article is learning that Chad can do basic math. I assume someone from the RFT helped him out after seeing him holding his calculator upside down.

Charlie
Charlie

The population of St. Louis went from 856,796 in 1950, to 319,294 in 2010. With the author's logic on rates of decline, are we to also conclude that eventually St. Louis will disappear too?

STLNEWSMOD
STLNEWSMOD

Touche, though I already noted that in my comment above.

Ctbspam86
Ctbspam86

Bet none of you LIVE in Cairo, if you did you would be signing a different tune. So easy to pass judgement in an ivory tower of security.

Chinarain_2000
Chinarain_2000

so true my husband is from cairo and most of his family still lives there, stop passing judgement, you have a family as well remember, disaster can happen to anyone anywhere

Mrdarryl_60
Mrdarryl_60

As a Cairoite that left in the late 70s, i'd like to say thanks to all those Morons that let their big city kinfolks bring in such crap as crack to what was our home. That crap just destroyed what those of us that did leave Cairo to take advantage of what opportunities we had available,depended on as our vacation spot . So if you wanna get mad at someone, get mad at your homies that were riding around with Big Rock,Hard Rock or any other crack cocaine references on their licence plate way back when. Thanks. Thank you very much.

Sylvia
Sylvia

Every week we hear on the news of another building burned to the ground due to arson. It's just a matter of time for Cairo, Illinois one way or the other. Why destroy the farmers' land? It's the ONLY thing keeping the economy going in this part of the world.

mssandy68
mssandy68

sylvia, I have been through Cairo many times and you are right, there just isn't much left there The buildings by the flood wall are falling down and those on the main street are either falling down or burned out.

Shelley Powers
Shelley Powers

You don't understand the levee system. If we let nature take its course, both Cairo AND the Missouri farm land would be under water.

In addition, your use of statistics doesn't take into account that close to 3000 people live in Cairo _right now_. Most of them middle class or poor, and ill equipped to start over again when everything they own is under 20 feet of water.

The farmers in the flood plain knew they were rolling the dice. For once, the dice didn't come up in their favor.

WBCisNUTS
WBCisNUTS

re:your use of statistics doesn't take into account that close to 3000 people live in Cairo _right nowyou need to re-read the story, "By 2010, just 2,831 called the city home."Aren't the people of Cairo rolling the same dice that you say the Missouri farmers are? It's not like they don't know that they are living at the confluence of two of the biggest rivers on this continent. Wonder if they bought flood insurance.

I'm not for or against the plan but i can't stand ignorant pontification.

Shelley Powers
Shelley Powers

No, because the existing levee system and plan in place was not to allow Cairo (and other communities in Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee) to flood, but to blow the levee, instead.

The farmers knew that if they planted farms on this land, and the river waters were high enough, the levee would be blown, and the farms would be flooded. The government paid for the easements to allow this flooding.

You may not like what I say, or consider it "ignorant pontification", but what I'm saying is fact easily verified with a simple Google search.

Illinoisan
Illinoisan

Shelley is absolutely right. Stupid stories about "letting nature run its course" completely ignore that the Mississippi River is not natural and hasn't been for a very long time.

Illinoisan
Illinoisan

And the Ohio River as well, of course.

Mdb_talon
Mdb_talon

Haha no actually the dice did come up in favor of the farmers their levee is holding just fine. In this case a govt agency wants to come in and change the dice to save a dying town with an outdated dying levee.

As for the levee system I think you simplify the situation. If the upstream levees were not continuously built and raised(Cairo) then the downstream levees (southern missouri) would not be as essential. Communities all along the main rivers in central US must continually build and rebuild their levees taller based off what upriver communities do.

Illinoisan
Illinoisan

The Birdspoint levee was constructed with hollow tubes inside to hold liquid explosives. It was actually designed to be destroyed in situations just like this.

Plus, the rights to flood that farmland were purchased decades ago by the federal government. That's why every court up to the USSCt summarily dismissed MO's legal arguments. They literally had no case.

STLNEWSMOD
STLNEWSMOD

And, among other things, you're an expert on the levee system? Do these people a favor, let Cairo flood and move them someplace where there are opportunities.

I'd say St. Louis, but you could do the same population trend story here. Only we'll probably last a few centuries longer than Cairo.

Shelley Powers
Shelley Powers

No, I'm not an expert in the levee system, but if the farm land is an alluvial plain--a floodplain. This means that, naturally, it would be under water in high river conditions. That's why the farm land is so rich--it's been flooded over the centuries, and each flood brings in top soil.

And it's not up to us to put value on these people's homes and lives. If they move, let them move on their own terms, not because society judges them and their homes of less worth than 130,000 acres of farm land.

Jmilliganhuramabi
Jmilliganhuramabi

To bad the Mississippi has run its course before man settled there, read Mark Twain. Farmers took a chance when they settled there. So stop belly aching, have the people in Cairo ever been given a even chance? No that is why they had the civil rights movement in the first place. No white man would give them an even chance to live with dignity. So why should any one of any race, or walk of life live where there is no hope of living  life of hope and prosperity for themself and their children. Believe me when I say the people who have left Cairo did not leave to live on welfare. And, the racism that still exists in Cairo, made them more detemined to prove them wrong.

mssandy68
mssandy68

Have you ever seen land after a flood Shelly? I have and it isn't pretty. The farmers will have to spend months maybe years clearing debris from the land. Some of the land will have so much sand on it that it will be useless. A lot of the farmers are old men who will probably never plant another crop. Crop Insurance? Come on, do you really think insurance will pay off since it wasn't an act of God.

Shelley Powers
Shelley Powers

I believe the entire area is alluvial plain, subject to frequent flooding. Levees on both sides of the river prevent the flooding.

The difference is that the government didn't pay the people of Cairo to allow flooding in their town, nor is there anything in law about reimbursing the people of Cairo for silt and gravel that is deposited on their lands once the water is gone.

So you believe we should pay the farmers for flow rights over their land, with the understanding the last 85 years that when certain conditions do occur, the lands will be flooded, but then at the very end, jump up and say "April Fool!" on the people of Cairo?

I don't think the Corps thinks the way you do, Chad.

STLNEWSMOD
STLNEWSMOD

You don't think Cairo is part of that same alluvial plain?

Shelley Powers
Shelley Powers

This plan has been known and in place before any of the people farming the lands ever planted one plant or brought in one cow. The plan was in place after the 1927 flood, and was used once, in 1937.

An earlier commenter made the point that this information is why the Missouri case to block the destruction of the levee failed, all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Sure, no one wants either of the sides of the river to flood, but either we have a plan and follow it, and everyone knows what it is and what to expect, or we remove all the levees and just let the damn river flow wherever it wants.

I can guarantee you that Missouri would not like that latter option.

WBCisNUTS
WBCisNUTS

um, people live on that farmland too, do their homes and lives have value?

The farmland was a flood plane until the core built the levees, again this didn't happen overnight and many of those same farmers bought their land after the levees were constructed. When was the last time the core intentionally blasted a levee? I bet the farmers thought it would be there for a while.

J. Brad Hicks
J. Brad Hicks

I don't know if this is something the courts are factoring in, but I'd say that those farmers are more likely to have crop insurance than people in Cairo are to have flood insurance.

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