A review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ management of the Missouri River begins this week, in the wake of this summer’s record flooding. Witt Anderson, director of programs for the Corps’ Northwestern Division, is overseeing the process and says the Corps will provide information but will also allow the review panel free reign.
“A very high, important principle for us is that is does have independence and the integrity is maintained,” Anderson says. “They have to be able to do the work as they see fit and do it unfettered by influence from the Corps or anyone else.” Anderson says the Corps is also analyzing what would have happened under different management scenarios.
For example, if the Corps had released water from upstream reservoirs earlier this year to free up storage space for flood waters, would the region have been as devastated? “That information, coupled with this review by this independent panel, will help us have a dialogue in the basin about…future operations,” Anderson says. “That then leads to questions like, is it time to go back to Congress to seek new authority or do we need resources to do something else?”
The four-member panel includes scientists from the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Colorado State University. Critics have accused the Corps of failing to work aggressively enough to prevent flooding. Anderson says information gleaned from the review may be used to ask Congress for new direction on managing the Missouri River. The review officially begins Tuesday and results are expected in early December.