October 22, 2014

Corps talks about Missouri River control at Sioux City meeting

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are meeting with residents along the Missouri River after this summer’s record flooding to explain plans for next year. At a meeting Thursday in Sioux City, several residents surrounded Jody Farhat, head of the Corps’ reservoir control office, as she explained how the Corps tried to manage this spring’s massive run-off.

Farhat says the snowpack from the mountains and plains was captured into the reservoir system and it was all accounted for and normal rainfall and even above-normal rainfall could have been handled as there was still storage space. Farhat says in a single weekend, a record rainfall filled the reservoirs and they were left with no alternatives but to further open the floodgates, flooding the basin.

“If you don’t have storage, and we lost that storage because of the rainfall, then basically we had to say how much will our peak inflows be from that mountain snowpack and we’re going to have to pass it through because we have so little storage left,” Farhat says. “The cup is full, whatever comes in is going to have to go out.”

Gary Brown, director of the Woodbury County Emergency Services office, says they need better communications from the Corps. Brown says the Corps needs to do a much better job of letting local governments know what’s coming, as he says they were sometimes hours or days behind the information curve. Brown says the recovery continues in the Sioux City area, but it’s slow going.

He says, “There are a lot of people in all three states that aren’t home yet and we’re working to do everything we can to try to get them back home but it’s going to be a long road.” Brown says they have learned some important lessons from this year’s flooding.

He says they’re adding personnel and training to be able to run a 112-day emergency operation again, if needed. The Corps will release its 2012 operating plan for the Missouri River in late December or early January.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton