Missouri River States Press for Greater Flood Protection
BISMARCK, N.D. – Governors and representatives from 8 states hard hit by last year’s historic flooding along the Missouri River met here today to continue pressing for changes in the water system’s management.
Gov. Dalrymple held the meeting on the campus of Bismarck State College where he hosted Gov. Dennis Daugaard, S.D., Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, Neb., and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer participated by phone. Gov. Sam Brownback participated by phone and had a senior official attend in person. Senior officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources attended the meeting on Gov. Jay Nixon’s behalf. Also attending were state officials from Wyoming, as well as North Dakota State Engineer Todd Sando. Brig. Gen. John McMahon, who oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Northwest Division; Jody Farhat, the Corps’ chief manager of the Missouri River Basin; Doug Kluck, climate services director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other Corps and NOAA officials attended the meeting to answer questions and discuss the management of the Missouri River.
The governors’ working group said flood control must be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ top priority in managing the river system. They cautioned Corps Officials who attended the meeting not to allow multi-year periods of low flood threat or the river system’s other authorized purposes to overshadow the importance of flood protection.
Today’s meeting marked the third held by Missouri River governors and state officials who formed a working group in the wake of last year’s record-setting flood events. Missouri River governors have also discussed the river system’s management by phone. The governors, who first met last August in Omaha, Neb., told Corps officials they want to continue holding meetings to provide greater input and to create more flexibility in the Missouri River system’s management.
The governors called for NOAA and the Corps to establish an early warning system to notify states of flood threats based on mountain snowpack levels, water storage conditions and other factors. Better real-time data with additional gauges along the river system would enable communities to respond faster and more appropriately to changing conditions.
The governors’ working group discussed needed maintenance along the river system, where last year’s flood waters have left large deposits of sediment buildup. The 2011 flood altered the river and areas of sediment buildup could impede the river’s flow. The working group also discussed a Corps proposal to charge a fee to water users along the Missouri River.
Before concluding the meeting, the governors and other state representatives agreed to continue meeting and press for improvements in the river system’s management.