COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Three Midwestern Republican governors of states ravaged by recent flooding demanded more authority over management of the Missouri River system.
Following a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 3, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson were critical of the federal body that manages the river, saying it should prioritize flood control over other goals, such as protecting fish and wildlife habitat.
“One thing is clear: Something needs to change,” said Parson.
The governors said they plan to work together for that change, even if it means petitioning Congress to give states more authority in river management.
Ricketts complained that even when funding for reinforcement of levees is approved, it’s often years before the work is actually done. In some cases, flooding repeats before the work even starts.
“That permitting process has got to be faster,” he said.
Reynolds said the governors would be presenting a united front to the federal government in demanding more authority.
“We can’t continue to do things like build a temporary levee that would protect a community, and after the Corps deems the flood incident over, require them to tear it down,” she said
The Corps has said it works to balance all its priorities and that much of the flooding was well out of its control. The agency said that much of the water that created the flooding came from record rains and melting snow that flowed over frozen ground and directly into the river downstream of its dams, all while massive amounts of water filled Missouri River reservoirs and had to be released.
On April 3, the Corps released numbers showing record March runoff in the upper Missouri River Basin above Sioux City, Iowa, of 11 million acre feet — nearly 4 million acre feet more than the previous record of 7.3 million set in 1952. The average March upper basin runoff is 2.9 million acre feet, the Corps said.
Officials have estimated that the flooding caused nearly $1.4 billion in damage in Nebraska and more than $1.6 billion in Iowa. That includes an estimated $1 billion of damage to farms in both states, where flooding destroyed stored crops, tore up land and equipment and killed livestock.
Kansas and Missouri officials are still waiting on damage estimates. In Missouri, the surging river caused dozens of levee breaches that inundated about 168,000 acres in Missouri’s two hardest-hit counties of Holt and Atchison.