Cooper Nuclear Station in Nebraska

This photo provided by Cooper Nuclear Station shows damage from flooding surrounding the power plant. Because of flooding, some who work at the plant have had to make hours-long detours to get to work.

It takes roughly 10 minutes to drive from the South Side to a job on the east edge of St. Joseph, perhaps at a business park or Mosaic Life Care.

Those traveling from Savannah could add another 10 minutes or so of car time. Even a commute to northern Kansas City, at 45 minutes, pales in comparison to all the time you could be stuck in big-city traffic.

Commute time to work averages 17 minutes for Buchanan County residents, compared to 23.5 minutes statewide and a national average of 26.4 minutes.

You don’t have to look as far as Los Angeles or Atlanta to find a certain envy for this quality-of-life amenity. In far Northwest Missouri, some residents of Atchison County encountered detours of two and a half hours to work at the Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville, Nebraska. It’s all because this year’s flooding shut down the U.S. Highway 136 bridge that connects Northwest Missouri and Southeast Nebraska.

The bridge at Nebraska City is now open, but motorists still face a one-hour drive for a trip that should take only 10 minutes from Rock Port. Since March, a similar inconvenience could be felt for those commuting from Missouri to other jobs in Nebraska, like the prison in Tecumseh.

Their brutal commute is something to consider when mulling the next steps in preventing future Missouri River flooding.

All too often, it’s tempting to view Missouri River management as an obscure debate limited to farmers and ecologists. If you don’t plant soybeans for a living, or have a particular affinity for the pallid sturgeon, then you don’t have a dog in this fight.

The flooding’s impact is as broad as the river itself. For nuclear power plant workers, it results in time spent away from families and communities, not to mention a steep increase in fuel costs. The flood places a financial burden on small towns and households that are forced to divert resources into rebuilding. Businesses and farms outside the flood plain feel the effect of rail, barge and highway infrastructure that was knocked out of service.

Agriculture is an $88 billion industry in the state, so the level of direct damage to crops along the river should be reason enough make flood control more of a priority. But it’s hard to understand the lack of action when adding in the wider impact.

We’re working on the assumption that the lobby for a bottom-feeding fish isn’t that powerful. More likely, it’s political inertia that has kept Congress from doing little more than talking about the problem.

What would it take to spark more urgency? Some of those nuclear plant workers, during a long and winding trip to work, would have plenty of time to come up with some talking points.