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Health, Science, Environment

New report calls the Missouri River 'endangered' by poor flood management

(Diana Fredlund/US Army Corps of Engineers)
A non-federal levee near Rulo, Neb., experienced an overtopping breach in June, 2011, flooding U.S. Route 159 and part of Holt County, Mo.

A new report calls flood management on the Missouri River “outdated” and says it’s putting the public at risk.

The report by the environmental advocacy group American Rivers identifies the Missouri River as one of the ten most endangered in the country.

John Hickey directs the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, a local partner on the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. He cites last year’s record flooding along the Missouri River as evidence that trying to control flooding with levees and dams isn’t working.

“So what the Sierra Club, and what American Rivers support, is restoring the floodplains of the Missouri River and the wetlands along the river, so that these floodplains can absorb and store floodwater and reduce the severity and the impact of flooding along the Missouri River,” Hickey said.

The report asks Congress and the US Army Corps of Engineers to fully fund the Missouri River Recovery Program, block inappropriate floodplain development, and restore funding to long-term river management planning studies.

John Grothaus, who leads the planning section of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District, hadn’t yet seen the new report.

But he says since last year’s record flooding along the Missouri River, the Corps’s priority has been to repair damaged flood control structures.

And he says dams and levees will continue to be an important component of flood management.

“The other component is looking at wise floodplain management measures in the floodplain,” Grothaus said. “And one way to better manage floodplains is allow them some areas where it’s feasible and where it’s acceptable in the communities to restore to their natural functions.”

Grothaus says the Corps has been working with landowners along the Missouri River to restore floodplain habitat as part of the Missouri River Recovery Program.

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