Of all the predictions for 2020, the most sobering one involves the likelihood of another round of flooding on the Missouri River.
“It does look like the conditions are setting up for flooding again,” Scott Watson, staff hydrologist with the National Weather Service, told a News-Press NOW reporter.
This assessment aligns with what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported during annual fall meetings throughout the Missouri River basin. “People need to be aware of the increased chances of flooding,” John Remus, chief of the Corps of Engineers Missouri River Management Division, told an audience in Sioux City, Iowa.
This comes after record flooding in 2019 devastated farms and property along the Missouri River basin, from Nebraska to Missouri. Those who drive Interstate 29 in southern Iowa and northern Missouri will notice that flood water hasn’t been completely evacuated. Some homes and farms are still under water.
In St. Joseph, the river reached a historic crest of 32.12 feet in March. It fell below the minor flood stage of 17 feet late this year, but it would be a critical error to assume that that crisis has passed, that the flooding of 2019 was an anomaly or that this could all be chalked up to the cruel whims of nature.
The Corps of Engineers stressed during the fall meetings that 2019 was an extremely wet year and that more of the same is expected in 2020. Those farmers and property owners who attended these fall meetings seemed like reasonable people who didn’t want to know what the Corps of Engineers was going to do about the weather, they simply wanted to know what river managers would do now to minimize the risk heading into what’s expected to be another wet spring.
It seems like a reasonable request, that the Corps of Engineers needs to do as much as possible to remove excess storage from upstream reservoirs now, before the next crisis unfolds in the spring.
Public comments at the fall meetings suggest that the Corps of Engineers understands this issue, but those who manage the river also appear weighted down by the desire to please multiple parties, including property owners, barge operators and wildlife.
The Corps of Engineers can’t do anything about the weather, but it could use the memory of what happened this past year to make flood control more of a priority in 2020 and beyond. This is what those who live and farm along the river would like to hear.
The best way to make that happen is for Congress to step in and make it clear that flood control deserves more attention on the Missouri River. This is the only way to make sure that the kind of flooding we saw in 2019 doesn’t become the new normal.