Top brass with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say they welcome independent reviews of how they handled upstream runoff which led to this year’s widespread Missouri River flooding. Brigadier General John McMahon, commander of the Corps’ Northwest Division, says calls by governors and members of Congress for a review of what went wrong could prove productive.
“Working together, we can take a long view of the problem set that faces us which is absolutely necessary for long-term success,” General McMahon says. Water releases from upstream dams have been dropping daily for a week and levels have dropped below flood stage in Sioux City this week for the first time in 81 days.
McMahon says much work will be required once the floodwaters recede. “It’s a very huge challenge that we face, not only for beginning the preparations for the 2012 season, but much further beyond that, setting the conditions for the basin in the future and what that might look like, talking about vision,” he says.
The Corps believes the Missouri River should be back to “normal” levels by the end of next month or early October. Colonel Robert Ruch, commander of the Corps’ Omaha District, says he understands that many, many people are upset with the Corps after the summer of flooding. Colonel Ruch promises the Corps will be candid with those who have suffered through months of flooding.
“We can tell the truth in so many ways and that’s what we’ll continue do,” Ruch says. “The books are open. It’s an emotional issue when you’re flooded. I feel for the farmers. I feel for the folks who are out of their houses and out of their businesses. I do expect a certain amount of that emotion to come out.”
Governors from the Missouri River basin have joined members of Congress in calling for an independent investigation of how the Corps handled the runoff that overflowed the six-reservoir system, leading to the releases that created massive flooding in Nebraska and Iowa.