Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is meeting with his counterparts from seven other states today to discuss the devastating summer-long Missouri River flooding and how to prevent a repeat — if possible. The summit in Omaha was called by Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, who says they will have some pointed questions for officials from the U-S Army Corps of Engineers.
“I believe the Corps, even though they were responsive, they were late to addressing some of the flood control issues,” Governor Heineman says. “We’re going to face similar challenges in the future and we don’t want a repeat performance of what occurred.” Heineman and Branstad will be joined by the governors or their representatives from Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
Heineman expects a candid conversation about the waterway and this year’s widespread, prolonged destruction. Thousands of acres of farmland are underwater along with hundreds of homes and businesses. Corps officials point to heavy snowpack in the Rockies and record rainfall this spring. Heineman says the governors want to know if the dams at reservoirs like Gavins Point, near Yankton, South Dakota, should have been opened sooner or if anything else could have prevented this multi-state mess.
“We’re going to have a very healthy and robust discussion about what occurred and what should happen in the future and talk about the priorities of the Missouri River,” Heineman says. “Most of us are in agreement, it should be flood control. That’s been a challenge in the past, to get all the governors to agree.” Heineman has called the meeting so that the governors can have direct access to each other and officials from the Corps of Engineers.
“To really identify for the public and for the Corps and for all of us, what are the priorities for the future of the Missouri River,” Heineman says. “We don’t want a repeat what happened again this year.” The gathering brings together the leaders of both upstream and downstream states, but Heineman expects unity, not the usual division.
“Maybe for the first time in a long, long period of time, we may be able to come together and talk about the challenges that every one of us faces with this flood,” Heineman says. “It flooded homes and farms and ranches in South Dakota and North Dakota just like it did in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. I think that maybe what has occurred has united us.”
Coincidentally, the Corps is cutting back flow rates from upriver reservoirs starting today, and will do so daily through the end of the month. The flooding is expected to last well into September and perhaps October.