October 25, 2020

Army Corps Engineers Tackle Missouri River Flooding

This May, heavy rains in Montana and North Dakota caused record flooding, which led to thousands of people evacuating, levees being breached in Nebraska and Missouri and a large amount of farmland being saturated. With high waters expect to last through August, officials and engineers are trying to find solutions. One of these solutions is that the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the spillway of the Garrison Dam, on the Missouri River.

Army Corps Engineers Tackle Missouri River Flooding

The Corps has also taken additional steps to address this issue of flooding. It has started draining its reservoirs in Missouri and sending the water downstream at a vastly increased rate. The Corps has also begun freeing up more storage capacity in its reservoirs for flood control, taking away space from things such as irrigation, hydropower and recreation.

Even with the aid of the dam and spillway, the flooding has had significant effects on the region. In Pick City, North Dakota, fishing boat tour revenue has been down due to the closure of all the boat ramps in the vicinity, because of high water. The water treatment plant in Blair, Nebraska, is also in danger due to the floods, which could affect the jobs of around 1,000 employees.

The Corps is looking towards other possible remedies to solve this problem. One possibility on the table is a $1 billion to $2 billion restoration bill aimed at fixing levees, floodways and river-navigation. There is also the potential of adding a new floodway that could be used as a relief valve in times of heavy flooding. The Corps is also re-examining a Congressional management plan from the 40s to see what they can learn about the effectiveness of that plan.

Corps engineers have faced animosity from citizens who feel that they should’ve handled the situation more efficiently. Some members of the public feel that the Corps should’ve been better prepared, and that they should’ve already made room in the Corps reservoirs in anticipation of spring flooding. Others feel that this amount of flooding was unprecedented and could not have been predicted.

Any future flood control efforts by the Corps are likely to be met with further criticism and potential lawsuits. As the states await a resolution to the continual problems of flooding, differing financial interests may cause divisions between them. There could be a possible face-off between the recreational industries of the Dakotas and Montana, and the shipping and agricultural industries of Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. Whichever side comes out on top, there are likely to be unsatisfied parties even after the flooding has been controlled.