Governors from throughout the Missouri River Basin have told the Army Corps of Engineers flood control must be its top priority in managing the Missouri.
Corps Northwest Division Commander, Brigadier General John McMahon, says there are trade-offs with the other seven priorities for the Missouri River system.
“But, there’s also, I think, other means to achieve greater flood control,” McMahon says. “And it begins with thinking about the flood plain differently and how we manage the flood plain.”
McMahon says responding to this year’s flooding might include proposals to change zoning laws and building codes as well as building more set-back levees.
Governors from the Missouri River Basin met in Omaha Friday and made it clear to the Army Corps of Engineers that flood control must be the top priority, above all else, in managing the Missouri.
McMahon says that agreement now must be fleshed out.
“We’ve got to think broadly and deeply and long-term about this problem set and work together, both among the governors with members of Congress with the tribes and others to figure out what trade-offs we’re willing to make as we think about the future of the basin and enhancing the amount of flood control we currently have,” according to McMahon.
Six reservoirs upstream on the Missouri River were built to control the flow of water down the Missouri River. Upstream and downstream states have traditionally fought over releases in a battle of tourism interest upstream and navigation interest downstream. This year, heavy snowfall in the north and historic rainfall this spring swamped the reservoir system, forcing the Corps to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the dams into a Missouri River already well out of its banks, flooding homes, business and farms throughout the basin.
McMahon says he welcomes an independent review of how the Corps handled the situation this year, but notes there’s only so much than can be done.
“Mother Nature is a powerful force. For man to think that in any given period of time that we can predict and understand the scope and scale of what Mother Nature can do to us is foolhardy,” McMahon says.