State officials are studying an independent review of how the Army Corps of Engineers handled Missouri River flooding this year and agree with its assessment, for the most part.
Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Jim Schneider isn’t sure he agrees with one point of the study, that the master manual on handling the Missouri River might need to be changed. Schneider says that the Corps could have limited the damage done by Missouri River floodwaters if it would have recognized 2011 was a wetter year than normal and begun releasing water from upstream reservoirs earlier.
Schneider does agree wholeheartedly with another finding of the panel of experts commissioned to review how the Corps handled the Missouri this year.
“One of the recommendations from the panel was improved cooperation, and collaboration and communication among everyone involved,” Schneider says. “So, that’s certainly something that Nebraska is very interested in and will be real important.”
Schneider says everyone in the Missouri River Basin needs to be involved, including states such as Nebraska which bore the brunt of the flooding in 2011.
The panel of experts released a 99-page analysis of how the Army Corps of Engineers performed in its role of managing the flow of the Missouri River this year. While the panel absolved the Corps of blame for the flooding, that was attributed to large snowmelt and drenching spring rains, it did fault the Corps for some of its decision making.
Rainfall in Montana exceeded 300% of normal, according to the report. That massive rainfall combined with a larger-than-normal snowmelt, swamping the six reservoirs upstream on the Missouri River. The Corps released unprecedented amounts of water to relieve pressure on the dams, flooding downstream states throughout the summer.
The Corps says the floods caused $630 million in damage to levees, dams and channels along the Missouri. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the Missouri River for its 2,341 mile length, flowing from Montana through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. It uses the Missouri River Master Manual as its guide.
The Farm Service Agency estimates that 144,600 acres of farmland was under water this summer; 119,000 acres of cropland and 6,200 acres of pasture. The Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates farm losses from flooding this year at $189 million.
The panel found that the Corps followed the manual in handling the flood of 2011. But, the panel says both the manuals used by the Corps and its decision-making process could stand improvement.