Governors meeting in Omaha recently have concluded at least one thing: man cannot control the Missouri River.
Seven governors from the Missouri River Basin System have agreed that flood control should be the Army Corps of Engineers top priority in managing the Missouri River. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer didn’t attend the meeting, claiming he had to stay behind due to wildfires in the state.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple says everyone thought the basin boasted one of the finest flood control systems in the world.
“We found out in 2011 that even that system, very substantial, big dams, big reservoirs, managed by professional engineers, can be completely overwhelmed,” Dalrymple says.
He adds that the experience of this year has changed all of the thinking about managing the Missouri.
“That’s something that we actually did not think could happen,” Dalrymple says, referring to the summer-long, widespread, damaging and deadly flooding that isn’t expected to recede until late September or early October.
Governor Heineman, who set up the meeting at the Gallup Center along the riverfront in Omaha, says it was difficult for anyone to foresee this year’s flooding.
“Well, this was an extraordinary event. It was a catastrophic event that probably no one envisioned it would happen in the manner in which it did,” according to Heineman.
Still, the governors, in talking with US Army Corps of Engineers officials, want answers as to what went wrong in 2011. Heavy snowpack combined with record spring rainfall to overrun the six reservoirs upstream on the Missouri River that control the flow downstream. The Corps responded with historic releases from the reservoirs, releases that the Missouri couldn’t handle. Floodwaters have covered homes, businesses and farmland in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
A letter to the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, asked for a review of how the Corps handled the historic runoff upstream and requests the Corps consult with the states and the Indian tribes affected before making any changes in the future. The governors ask for a report on what can be done in the future to prevent a recurrence.