Corps Proposes Mo. River Flooding Study

Study Would Focus on Reducing Flood Risk, Improving Infrastructure Resilience

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has submitted a federal funding request to conduct a study of flooding issues in the lower Missouri River basin. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to conduct a long-term study of flood risk in the lower Missouri River basin, after receiving formal letters of intent from officials in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri offered to help partially fund what would be about a $400,000 project.

Landowners across the lower Missouri River basin watched their livelihoods swept away in last spring's bomb cyclone. Homes, livestock, bridges and highways were wiped away in parts of Nebraska.

Long after the flood waters receded in those areas, folks living along the lower Missouri River basin continued to see high water.

Devastating flooding along the 735-mile expanse of the lower basin has been a significant problem for years.

Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Chief David Kolarik told DTN the proposal awaits funding approval.

Kolarik said the Corps of Engineers has submitted a budget request for the flood risk management study for fiscal year 2020.

"This effort will review previous flood events and incorporate updates to models, evaluate the problems, opportunities, goals and objectives for the lower river," he said.

If funded, the study would formulate and evaluate measures to reduce flood risk, damages, vulnerability and to improve infrastructure resilience.

The study would be the impetus to develop a comprehensive set of measures and plans to reduce risk, enhance resiliency and to reduce the costs of repeated repairs of the system.

"The study proposes to prepare a recommended system plan in the lower Missouri River corridor to improve flood protection and include recommendations for actions at specific problem areas identified during the process by the Corps in consultation with our partners," Kolarik said.

In January, the governors of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas signed a memorandum of agreement to essentially pool state resources to address continued flooding concerns.

The governors of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska agreed to direct their respective agencies, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Kansas Water Office, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, to conduct joint efforts on a number of fronts.

That includes identifying areas of joint study to improve flood recovery and flood control to mitigate the effects of future weather-related events.

Those states will share information about actions taken by each state and coordinate actions to mitigate potential negative effects.

As part of the agreement, the states will be advocating for state leadership to guide the federal government's management of the river.

At a public meeting held in Nebraska City, Nebraska, last April, Corps officials laid out a timeline for repairs to 40 levees breached in a basin overwhelmed by flood waters.

In all, the flood disaster caused billions of dollars in damages in the basin.

The bomb cyclone dumped heavy rains on frozen ground in March 2019, and uncontrolled flood waters from the Platte River basin and the Niobrara River couldn't have been accounted for in the Corps' management of the Missouri River basin. Uncontrolled flood waters from the Platte and the Niobrara overwhelmed the four large dams in the basin. The Corps does not conduct flood control on the Niobrara.

Water releases from Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota have been a subject of controversy. The dam contains less than 1% of all of the flood storage capacity in the basin.

Just this past week, the Corps increased releases from Gavins Point to 35,000 cubic feet per second, up from 30,000 cfs, as the Corps tries to prepare for the 2020 runoff season. Typically, Gavins Point winter releases will average between 12,000 cfs to 17,000 cfs, the Corps stated.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley