Company plans to push barges that broke loose back into Mississippi River

MILLER CITY,IL — Farmers in Miller City were surprised to find six barges on their farmland Wednesday. The empty barges broke loose and slipped through the Len Small Levee, which breached in 2016 and was not repaired.

The barges are owned by Hines Furlong Line in Paducah. The company plans to use several small boats to push the barges over Miller City Road and into deeper water by nightfall. Then they hope to use a tug boat to push the barges back into the river.

Because of the broken levee, people who live nearby never know what they’re going to wake up. This time, Sherry Pecord woke up to barges outside her home.

“It’s something we all sat around and talked about down here: One of these days somethings going to happen and the current is going to suck a barge through here. We all said it, and we thought it was very likely. On the flip side, to go down and see it now, it’s crazy and mind blowing,” said Pecord.

The barges destroyed her irrigation rig, but she said the damage could have been worse.

“It’s really dangerous. I was terrified. It could have taken a chunk out of our personal levee that protects our home. It’s very dangerous. It could take out our electric polls,” said Pecord.

Pecord was starting to feel optimistic about the ongoing flooding situation in Miller City, because the water on the farmland has gone down. However, now that barges are floating through the water, folks there don’t know how much more they can take.

“All along I’ve been saying it’s more than about us in Alexander County flooding and these farmers down here getting their fields wet. There’s a bigger picture. It’s changed the echo system. It’s changed our fishing, our hunting, and now the traffic on the river. It’s a big deal. Maybe they’ll finally see that,” Pecord said.

Pecord said this wouldn’t have happened if the levee was fixed. She hopes the barge company will pay for the damages to her property.