Levee Breach

An aerial view of a levee breach in Atchison County, Missouri. Federal efforts are underway to rehabilitate levees affected by spring flooding along the Missouri River.

Flooding along the Missouri River came quickly this spring, but the recovery efforts in Northwest Missouri and elsewhere will be a long, painstaking process.

Army Corps of Engineers officials said 181 requests for levee rehabilitation assistance have been fielded by the Kansas City and Omaha districts.

The estimated cost for the Missouri River Basin for flood recovery now stands at about $1 billion, with that figure sure to rise as projects move forward.

“Teams are gradually being able to access the damaged levees to refine the assessment of damages to the 850 miles of impacted levees within the region,” John Leighow, the Corps’ chief of Northwestern Division Readiness and Contingency Operations, said in a conference call last week.

The Corps uses Public Law 84-99 as a means of supplementing local repairs of levees damaged by flooding. The rehabilitation assistance to non-federal work must meet certain criteria under the law.

According to Jud Kneuvean, chief of emergency management for the Corps’ Kansas City District, 66 levee systems under this law were overtopped by the high water, with 45 of them subsequently breached.

One project underway in Northwest Missouri will restore the levees in Atchison County.

“The purpose for that project is to close breaches on both the Mill Creek levee and the Big Tarkio (River) levee to prevent water from flowing unabated across the flood plain,” Kneuvean said on the conference call.

This also will help the two waterways regain their pre-flood flow patterns, he said.

Rock delivery and placement is expected to take about 10 weeks to complete. The focus remains on three breaches, with a fourth under consideration in the short run as a means of drainage.

“I don’t think it’s anyone’s intent to leave it open for very long,” Kneuvean said. “The big thing for us is getting the other three closed off so we can prevent that flow coming down there through Corning and Craig and emptying out down there at Fortescue.”

Along with the Corps work, Missouri lawmakers have appealed to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to hasten its delivery of Community Development Block Grant funds to help those hurt by natural disasters.

All 10 members of the Missouri congressional delegation, a pair of U.S. senators and eight U.S. representatives, signed the letter sent Monday to the department’s secretary, Ben Carson.

“Victims of natural disasters should not have to wait on slow-moving bureaucratic processes to receive money intended for their recovery,” the lawmakers wrote.

Ken Newton can be reached at ken.newton@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.