Flood control is on a lot of minds as farmers, levee boards, homeowners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to monitor a fast-flowing Missouri River.
Between now and Saturday, the Missouri River is expected to rise above the lower flood stage in some areas, especially between Rulo, Nebraska, and Atchison, Kansas.
The Corps argues that flood control is still one of its eight priorities and notes it reduced Gavins Point Dam water releases to 24,000 cubic feet per second. But since 2004, flood control hasn’t been its top priority.
As a homeowner, Judy Massett said, “We live on the Missouri, and sometimes we live in it.”
Her home is above the Gavins Point Dam and below the Garrison Dam. She and her husband were surrounded by the river in 2011. The couple sued for relief from the taking of their land by the Corps. Massett said the reason she joined the lawsuit was to find a way to have the Corps’ main priority be flood control as it was before 2004.
Back in March and April, Massett said she could almost walk across the Missouri River. Massett says the Corps could have increased dam releases in the spring months. Then there might have been a possibility to have lower dam releases in the summer, she said.
During those months, the Corps lowered the water releases from Garrison Dam for the nesting birds, per its agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The program hasn’t even shown a measurable impact in helping the animals it aims to protect,” said Northwest Missouri Congressman Sam Graves. “To add insult to injury, we have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to carry out this program while the floods it has created cost landowners along the Missouri River more than $300 million.”
Levees have had to keep their floodgates closed since May to avoid backflows onto crops. Some, like the Halls Levee District south of St. Joseph, are spending their dollars buying fuel to pump excess seepage water from behind levees.
“There appears to be no end in sight for when levee floodgates can be reopened,” said Lanny Frakes, a farmer and levee board member. Frakes agrees there needed to be increased water releases sooner.
This is because the Corps previously announced it wants to run water out of the Gavins Point Dam at a rate of 40,000 cubic feet or more all summer. It’s to evacuate all the floodwater held from winter and spring snows out west.
Graves says flood control has to be a main goal. Massett and Frakes agree.