Ricketts demands more input with Army Corps on flooding, and Gavins Point is not the only issue

Ricketts demands more input with Army Corps on flooding, and Gavins Point is not the only issue
Flooding in Plattsmouth (World-Herald News Service)

Governors from three states insisted Wednesday that states affected by Missouri River flooding have more input with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The governors of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri met with corps officials and then held a press conference in which they demanded input because, they said, the current system has failed.

Missouri River overflows in recent years, and intense flooding last month, compelled the governors — Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Mike Parson of Missouri — to call the problem a regional dilemma on which they must work together to influence Missouri River management.

Among the possibilities, they said, may be changing federal laws on Missouri River management; shortening the time it takes to get a permit for levee changes; more reservoir capacity upstream; more levees; higher levees; better innovation; and improved levee materials.

“If we had this in place, maybe Offutt doesn’t get flooded,” Ricketts said of changes in general. The governors weren’t harshly critical of the corps and said they want to collaborate with the federal agency.

The corps has faced varying degrees of criticism from political leaders over its management of the Missouri River during last month’s flooding.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly intended to join the meeting at the Council Bluffs Police Department but had travel difficulties, Reynolds said.

The governors said they are beginning to create short- and long-term plans. But they have to look at the flooding problem as regional partners, they said, because what might help one state could hurt another.

They said they want more — or at least some — input in decisions affecting the Missouri River. Asked if they have had input up to now, Parson said: “We are having impact today. I don’t know about yesterday.”

Reynolds said the region endured flooding in 2011 and overflows to a lesser degree in following years, but 2019 caused extensive damage. And, she said, states such as Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas can’t continue to go through this.

Ricketts said: “We have to do something different along the river.”

The flooding has occurred for “far too long,” Parson said, and the states need “straight-up answers from the corps.” The Missouri River corridor has considerable influence on agriculture and the nation’s economy, he said.

Ricketts said water releases from Gavins Point Dam are far from the only problem. The Platte River and tributaries contributed to the flooding, he said, among other factors. He said the corps has stated that it will obey the laws, so those laws may well require change.

He said the 2011 flooding caused only a fraction of the destruction of levees that the 2019 floods have caused. “Some of these are just massive breaks.”

Reynolds said there are still communities underwater.

Parson agreed, saying there is the potential for more flooding this spring. “We’re still not out of the woods yet.”