An independent review of last year’s prolonged Missouri River flooding says there was little more the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could have done to avoid the widespread, expensive damage. Among those on the review team, Cara McCarthy is senior forecast hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Portland, Oregon. McCarthy says they looked through a mountain of information.
She says, “First of all, it’s just finding out about the flooding, looking at the numbers and finding out the extremes and then finding out, not just the water amount, but the damage amounts, talking to people and hearing what happened to them.” McCarthy says members of the Corps of Engineers started to react early in the spring as soon as they saw the massive inflows of snow melt and rain move into the reservoir system.
“By May 1, they recognized that they had a lot of water to get rid of, so they had actually started to get rid of water in the beginning of April,” McCarthy says. “Even if they had released more water in April than they did, they couldn’t have evacuated all that water. It was just a tremendous amount of water that came down.”
While she admits it’s difficult to strike a perfect balance, she says the report recommends the Corps find a way to set aside more upstream flood control storage space to avoid a repeat. “That’s really what was needed this year,” McCarthy says. “If you do have that, you have less water in the reservoir so you have less water for recreation and less water for downstream water uses and for irrigation, so this is the problem the whole Missouri River system needs to look at.”
Road repairs from the flooding in Iowa alone exceed 50-million dollars. The Corps estimates almost $600-million in damage was done just to levees along the river.