Flooding in Northwest Missouri

Four months after the Missouri River flooding began in 2019, floodwaters still covered this road in Atchison County, Missouri, last July.

More coordination, increased communication and greater relief from regulation all would help with future scenarios like the flooding that happened along the Missouri River in 2019. 

Those conclusions and others emerged as the Missouri flood recovery committee produced its final report this week.

While Congress gets numerous mentions in the document, along with the federally guided river management through the Army Corps of Engineers, the panel concluded that state leaders remain uniquely well-positioned for decisions on flood-protection infrastructure.

“States have the best working knowledge of the complex benefits and risks associated with our major river systems and are in closer ongoing communication with affected landowners, local governments and other stakeholders,” the report said.

Officially dubbed the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group, the committee began meeting last summer as out-of-channel waters remained on thousands of acres of farmland in Northwest Missouri.

Gov. Mike Parson commissioned the group, with representation from state agencies down to local levee districts, for identifying recovery priorities and changes in responses to future flooding.

“We’re not going to go back to the years in the past where all of a sudden when the flood’s over, we go back to the same practices, the same ways,” Parson said in an initial meeting. “It’s time that we make changes.”

Among the recommendations in the report:

Increase coordination with other lower Missouri River states (Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska) to provide strength when dealing with operational questions in the river system.

Amend the federal readiness and response program to limit costs in levee repairs in favor of a program that looks to longer-range, even if more expensive, solutions.

Authorize the Corps to "fund repairs at 100% federal expense for non-federal levee systems." The current requirement calls for a 20% local matching amount.

Amend requirements of federal programs that slow access to easements for emergency repair work.

On this latter point, and others urging flexibility on regulations, the report repeatedly referred to built-in hindrances that delay disaster recovery.

“We hear from Missouri farmers and landowners that red tape slows or prevents efforts to quickly recover and prepare for the next season,” Chris Chinn, Missouri Agriculture Department director, said with the report’s release.

The report suggested that Atchison County, in the far northwestern corner of Missouri, should be under the jurisdiction of the Kansas City District of the Corps of Engineers. It also noted that flood control in rural areas should be treated on a par with protections in urban locales.

"Benefit-to-cost ratios should include repeated repair costs of frequently damaged levees and should consider a broader range of benefits provided by protection in rural settings," one recommendation read. "Benefit-to-cost ratio should also consider economic impact of flood damages to rural communities."

Ken Newton can be reached at ken.newton@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.​