A regional commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says we’re in a “very dangerous time,” with weakened levees and dams after the summer-long flood of the Missouri River. Brigadier General John McMahon, commander of the Corps’ Northwest Division, says floodwalls all along the river in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska were significantly damaged by the many months of rising, rushing water.

“The big concern now is the winter weather and also how much runoff we’re going to have as the construction season unfolds that might interfere with that,” General McMahon says. “There’s lots of unknowns. We’re very vulnerable with respect to the condition of the levees now.”

Critics say there was a serious lack of communication between key governmental agencies and community leaders in threatened areas prior to the start of flooding this spring, and McMahon says he does not want to see a repeat. McMahon says, “We’re going to have to work very closely together and communicate well and keep everybody informed as we go through this very dangerous period of time.”

The Corps estimated in September that it would cost more than $500-million to repair the many miles of levees, earthen berms and other structures that were damaged in the prolonged flooding. That dollar figure is continuing to grow.

“We currently know of $630-million in repairs, mainly focused on the levees and some on the dams,” General McMahon says. “We’re still assessing the dams and I expect a report from our Omaha district by the end of this month. There’s also additional assessments to the navigation channel.”

While work is underway on levee repairs, he says little more can be done until next year and possibly, not before the spring flood season starts up again.