Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri Governors Meet on Flooding

by Fred Knapp, Reporter/Producer NET News

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April 3, 2019, 10:38 p.m.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts travelled to Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday to meet with the governors of Iowa and Missouri and talk about flooding along the Missouri River. The governors are trying to unite around plans to avoid future flooding.

Ricketts, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson met in a conference room at the Council Bluffs Police Department headquarters with officials from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Afterwards, Ricketts called for a coordinated regional approach. “If you look at what’s happened going back to just the last few years -- 2011, the floods that we’ve had, even last year, 2015, and then again this year, we have to do something different along the river,” he declared.

Parson suggested those changes should include the Army Corps reprioritizing flood control over other competing interests, such as habitat restoration, in managing dams along the river. “For far too long, we’ve had these incidents occur, and we’ve had meeting after meeting. But it seems to be the same results all the time. And I think it’s time that we need some straight up answers from the Corp of Engineer of how they’re managing the river, and why we continue to see the situation getting worse,” he said.

Ricketts said the governors discussed with Corps officials the release of water from their Gavins Point dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border. But he said other factors played a bigger role the flooding. “I think given how much water was coming in from the Platte, which was not controlled, vs. what was happening at Gavins Point, I think that’s a relatively small part of the overall what’s happening on the Missouri,” he said.

Reynolds said in the short term, major levees need to be rebuilt, but that needs to be part of a long-term strategy. “As we’re working in the short term and we’re putting in temporary levees (we need) to make sure that that levee that we’re putting in is part of the permanent solution going forward. And that’s not necessarily been the case in previous repairs from 2011,” she said.

And Reynolds said the states have to coordinate reconstruction efforts. “We can’t build higher on the Iowa side and dump it on Pete or Mike. That’s why the three of us are here, and committed to taking a look at this from a regional perspective. It has to be done that way,” she said.

Ricketts said current law simply requires that the levees be rebuilt to their originally authorized height. “So if we know that we’ve got changing conditions on the river where we need to be able to build higher levels, maybe we need to go back and change that law,” he said.

Parson said the Corps should explore adding reservoir capacity along the river. And he stressed the impact of the flooding on agriculture. “That affects every one of us and the people of our states and the economy of our states. So I think all of our states that rely especially on the agriculture side of it, this is huge,” he said.

Reynolds said it’s going to be a long process of recovery. “We have cities right now, or communities and towns that are still underwater. And so we have to stop the inflow, do the temporary fix, start to assess what the breaches look like and how we move forward,” she said.

And Parson said there could be more trouble coming downstream. “We’re still not out of the woods yet. You know, we still got water coming out, snow melt and ice coming out of the Dakotas coming down here, plus spring rains, that could really affect us,” he said.

The governors plan to meet again with the Army Corps in three weeks to discuss the way forward.