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Midwest lawmakers - Letter of complaints to Corps Engineers

Posted: 1:07 PM, May 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-03 14:20:30-04
Offutt flooding

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After historic flooding decimated communities in the Midwest, lawmakers called upon the Army Corps of Engineers to explain what went wrong. At a hearing with the Corps, it was revealed that they were using a flood management manual from 2004. Today, they released a letter to the Corps, urging them to be more transparent and address "shortcomings."

Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and John Hoeven (R-ND) are the authors of the letter.

In it, the senators say:

“In our discussions with constituents impacted by the March flooding, a lack of communication from the Corps was one of the most common complaints. Local levee sponsors, homeowners, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders believe that advanced warning from the Corps—in the form of more frequent and informational communications—could have mitigated some of the damages. By the time most people in harm’s way realized the gravity of the situation, it was too late to move grain, farm equipment, and other assets to safety.”

Senators Grassley and Ernst are asking the corps to begin sending weekly updates on the Missouri River Bason within 30 days of receiving the letter.

You can read it below:

Dear General Helmlinger:

As you are aware, in March 2019, several states in the Missouri River Basin experienced severe flooding as a result of rapid snowmelt and intense rain storms. The flooding has caused at least $3 billion in damages and more than 60 levees were breached or overtopped in the region. Since the onset of this flood event, we have been in constant contact with our constituents, local, state, and federal emergency response officials, and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The feedback we hear from folks on the ground and the information and insights provided by the Corps are invaluable as we consider ways to prevent or reduce the severity of future flood events.

In our discussions with constituents impacted by the March flooding, a lack of communication from the Corps was one of the most common complaints. Local levee sponsors, homeowners, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders believe that advanced warning from the Corps—in the form of more frequent and informational communications—could have mitigated some of the damages. By the time most people in harm’s way realized the gravity of the situation, it was too late to move grain, farm equipment, and other assets to safety.

Taking this feedback into consideration, we respectfully ask that within 30 days of receiving this letter, the Corps begins sending e-mail updates to all local sponsors of Corps levees in the Missouri River Basin. We request that these updates be sent weekly throughout the duration of flood season (January through June). These updates should include the following: snowpack levels, available flood control storage in the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System, cubic feet per second (cfs) release rates at the system’s dams, flow rates in key tributaries such as the Niobrara, Nishnabotna, and Platte rivers, National Weather Service (NWS) precipitation forecasts, and the NWS spring flood outlook.

The weekly updates should also include historical data from the 2011 and 2019 Missouri River floods that will serve as frames of reference for current data. Our hope is that these updates will help provide local levee sponsors and other stakeholders with the information they need to prepare for potential flood events. Thank you for your attention to this issue.

Sincerely,

Recently, we met with people in Rock Port Missouri who are still feeling the pains of flooding: https://www.3newsnow.com/news/local-news/flooding-continues-in-rock-port-missouri