Water Resources bill has flooding as one priority

Floodwaters covered tens of thousands of acres in Holt County in 2019. The Water Resources Development Act, now being considered in Congress, has provisions aimed at helping in flood situations along the Missouri River.

The federal government estimates that roughly eight of every 10 goods used by Americans require a seaport, harbor or inland waterway for their movement from market to consumer.

To accommodate this, a largely technical and mostly collegial measure makes its way through Congress every couple of years, the Water Resources Development Act.

Members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the legislation on Monday. They will take up the bill for passage in a committee meeting Wednesday.

North Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, the committee’s top Republican, said the measure would enhance waterway commerce and bring a host of economic benefits to the nation.

Closer to home, where flooding plagued Northwest Missouri in 2019, the bill proposes ways to lessen the risks of high water and spark quicker recovery for communities affected by these events.

“For my district in Missouri and those who have suffered from devastating floods, this bill takes vital steps to improve flood control infrastructure and reduce the future risk and potential for damage from such disasters,” Graves said in a statement on Monday.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Midwest flooding in Missouri and seven other states last year caused about $10.8 billion in damage, “one of the costliest U.S. inland flooding events on record,” the agency said.

Atchison and Holt counties in Northwest Missouri had combined more than 100,000 acres under water during the height of the flooding. Eight months after that, tens of thousands of acres remained covered by water.

Graves said the 2020 WRDA legislation includes language to give the Army Corps of Engineers more rapid construction authority that will help communities impacted by floods.

The measure also inserts direction in the Flood Control Act of 1960 “to avoid repetitive flooding impacts, to anticipate, prepare and adapt to changing climatic conditions and extreme weather events, and to withstand, respond to and recover rapidly from disruption due to the flood hazards.”

The congressman said, “This bill will ultimately save the lives and livelihoods of many Americans who live and work along our rivers .... It’s a big win for North Missouri and our entire country.”

Graves, the only House member whose district is bounded east and west by the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, said the act also orders the continuation and expansion of the Lower Missouri River Basin Flood Risk and Resiliency Plan.

This study intends to identify site-specific flood-control projects. Missouri and three other states below the Gavins Point dam are part of this study area.

Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democratic congressman from Oregon, praised the bipartisan work of the panel, noting it continues a tradition of WRDA bills approved in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

He cited the bill’s inclusion of his priority to “fully unlock federal investment” in the nation’s ports and harbors.

“This legislation will allow for the approximately $10 billion in already collected (Harbor Maintenance Trust) funds to be used to ensure the maintenance needs of ports and harbors across the country are met,” DeFazio said.

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