The consistent levels of flooding seen in Northwest Missouri this year have been unprecedented, according to officials charged with controlling flooding.
There already have been two federal declarations for flooding within the state, and a third could be possible with another surge of water making its way down the Missouri River. Two important aspects of flood control are levees and the pumping of excess water.
Levees in the state have seen the most widespread damage since the flood of 1993.
“From a damage perspective, we are seeing more damage and severe damage than what we were seeing in 2011,” said Mike Dulin, an emergency management specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Looking back historically, we are seeing damages on par with 1993. So this has been a very bad year.”
There are four levee systems in Buchanan County totaling 43 miles. The damage on those levees from recent flooding has been obvious.
“We have seen some erosion on those levees,” Dulin said. “And then underseepage was a big thing with the sustained high water. Any time you have water on the slopes of a levee, it could cause big problems.”
There is not an exact price on what the cost will be for repairs on the county’s levees. Dulin said there is a broad price range for levee repairs in the district.
“I have seen from $60,000 to $5 million on costs for levees. There have been several of them around $200,000,” Dulin said.
Another aspect of controlling the high flood waters is pumping rainwater when the river levels already are up. The St. Joseph Water Protection Department has a lot of responsibilities, but one of them when flooding occurs is keeping already high waters down.
The city has been pumping water since in March to try to keep up with the Missouri River. Around the clock maintenance has been necessary to avoid flooding the railroads.
“That is kind of is unique about this event in particular: We have been pumping since March,” said Eddie Leaverton, operations manager at the City of St Joseph’s Water Protection department. “2011 was a decent lengthened event, but I think this year we have surpassed that with just how long it has gone on.”
The department and the Corps have different roles in assisting levees and water pumping, but both are crucial to making sure more areas don’t flood.
There is no doubt the water the region has seen this year in unlike many others, and that means the amount of water being pumped this year is different as well.
“The amount of water that has come through the plant has doubled for what we would typically see. Even in 2011 we didn’t see this amount of water,” Leaverton said.