Ag Policy Blog

Governors Push for More Say in Missouri River Management

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Flooded grain bins last month in southwest Iowa. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

The Army Corps of Engineers released a three-week forecast of the Missouri River basin, stating that snow melt has increased inflows to it major reservoirs that would make it hard for the system to hold back more water due to rain events.

“Due to plains snow melt in the tributary basins that empty into the Fort Randall, Big Bend and Oahe reservoirs, the pool elevations at those projects increased significantly. Storing water in the exclusive flood control pools at projects in the middle of the system limits flexibility for reducing flood risk from upstream or downstream rain events. We are maintaining releases higher than inflows at Oahe, and Fort Randall Dams to gain more flood control storage space in those reservoirs,” said John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

Water releases from Fort Peck and Garrison will increase as snow pack melts. Water releases from Gavins Point will remain at 55,000 cubic feet per second to continue evacuating runoff from the spring plains snowmelt stored in the mid-system projects.

“Fluctuations to river stages downstream from Gavins Point are possible due to rain events occurring downstream from Gavins Point,” Remus said.

Corps update:…

On Friday, the governors of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska met again in Council Bluffs, Iowa, along with Kansas' lieutenant governor, to get an update on the river system and flood recover efforts. The governors said all four states will continue to focus on gaining more say over management of the Missouri River.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the governors want to increase attention on flood control. "That was crystal clear when we left that table, that the states were going to have some say in how the river is managed," Parson said.

Parson was joined by fellow Republicans, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, as well as Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, a Democrat. Parson, Reynolds and Ricketts also met in Council Bluffs last month to begin updates and the conversation on Missouri River management. "Missouri River Commission"

Ricketts said the four states were committed to work together on management issues concerning the river. He added the Corps of Engineers was open to looking at options for more state involvement. Ricketts also suggested looking into a commission similar to one that is used to help management of the Mississippi River.

Reynolds said at last two levee breaches on the Iowa side would be filled by mid-summer. That made her more optimistic about recovery so far. Reynolds said four major breaches were identified on the Iowa side and three of the contracts have already been let on the four major breaches, Reynolds said. “We need to plug the holes before we start any of the rebuilding, because we have an inflow of water at this point.”

Reynolds called on Congress to approve disaster aid to accelerate the longer-term process of fully rebuilding the levee system. "The Corps has existing funding to help the four major breaches we talked about, but they do not have the funding to start the recovery and repair process. So it's critical that Congress act and get the appropriation."

Because of the risks of heavy spring rains still looming large, Reynolds added, "All along the system our farms and our communities are vulnerable."

Reynolds also said the Corps talked to officials about choke points on the Missouri River, areas where the narrowing of the river has lead to more intense flooding. Two areas identified are in southwest Iowa that have highways and bridges crossing the river into southeast Nebraska.

Highlighting recovery efforts in southwest Iowa, the Des Moines Register wrote about people returning to their homes.…

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