The Missouri River is already overflowing its banks along Iowa’s western border and the flooding is about to significantly worsen. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to start releasing even more water from upriver reservoirs next week due to heavy rains and a record snowpack that’s still melting.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says congressional hearings may be warranted over how the Corps has handled the dire situation. “It never hurts to take an in-depth look at why we’re in the situation we’re at on the Missouri River,” Harkin says. “I will say at the outset, I don’t know that you could say that the Corps of Engineers is to blame for this.”
Some critics are quick to blame the Corps for what may be record flooding, though officials say they were on track through March until some upstream areas received a year’s worth of rainfall in one month’s time. Harkin says no one could have predicted that. “We’re in a whole new era now of what are 100-year floods and what are not 100-year floods,” Harkin says. “We’ve had that same situation in Des Moines. I’m all for examining what’s happening. Are there other actions that should be taken? Does the Corps need more money to fulfill its obligations?”
Harkin, a Democrat, says tough budget decisions are being made at all levels. “Right now, the Corps is transferring money from operations and maintenance just for flood fighting,” Harkin says. “If the Ryan budget, the Republican budget were to go into effect, it would cut even more money from the Corps of Engineers. I’m all for taking a look at it but I’m not saying that the Corps of Engineers is to blame for this.”
Hundreds of western Iowans and eastern Nebraskans have already been evacuated from their homes. Some predict the floodwaters may remain for many weeks, even months.