Oct 07, 2019 11:00 AM

Corps pledges to work with states in flood aftermath

Posted Oct 07, 2019 11:00 AM


St. Joseph Post

An officer with the United States Army Corps of Engineers says the Corps is receptive to input from the states in assessing what went wrong this year to spawn the widespread flooding in the lower Missouri River basin.

Officials from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa are demanding more input into management of the Missouri River and protection from future flooding.

Planning Section Chief John Grothaus in the Corps’ Kansas City office says there are lessons to be learned from this year’s floods.

“We will compare and share those lessons learned with our state and local partners, levee districts, communities, and certainly in the evaluation of how to reduce vulnerability and reduce flood risk going forward, we will certainly utilize those lessons learned, along with what we already have from 2011 and 1993,” Grothaus says in an interview with St. Joseph Post.

Grothaus says the 1993 flood was primarily a lower Missouri River basin flood, while the flood in 2011 was an upper basin flood with increased water releases upstream causing flooding downstream. He says this year extreme precipitation both in the upper and the lower Missouri River basins caused massive, widespread flooding.

The Corps only recently reported rainfall totals much higher than normal in the upper Missouri River basin last month, with September runoff easily exceeding its previous record. The Corps increased releases from Gavins Point Dam earlier from 70,000 cubic feet per second to 80,000 in response to the high levels of the six upstream Missouri River reservoirs. The Corps projects those releases to remain at 80,000 cfs at least until October 25th.

Grothaus says the Corps attempts to learn from each flood and one lesson learned this year is that fighting flooding works.

He points directly to work in Elwood, Kansas after the mid-March flooding that saved Doniphan County, including Rosecrans Airport and the Air National Guard base. Volunteers, led by members of the 139th Airlift Wing, filled sand bags, strengthened the main levee protecting the area, even increasing its height. Floodwaters lapped at the top, but never overtopped the levee, which held.

“Together we made a difference, multiple locations up and down the river, where the water was up on the levee and even on sandbags above the height of the levee and, working with our partners and our local levee districts, the Air National Guard and other partners, we saved levees and we saved land and investment,” Grothaus says.

The Army Corps of Engineers will be reviewing the flood this year, both from how it manages water flows into the Missouri River and how it protects people and property from floods.

The Omaha office handles river management. The Kansas City office will work to repair and update a broken Missouri River levee system.

Grothaus calls input from the states extremely important.

“The states are critical partners in management of flood risks along the river in their respective areas and working together between the states to leverage knowledge and also leverage resources,” according to Grothaus. “These problems are not going to be cheap to fix or necessarily low-cost solutions in some cases.”

It could take up to two years to rebuild the lower Missouri River basin levee system. State officials say they want reconstruction concentrated on areas that have recurring flooding problems.