Much of the water has receded, but the Flood of 2011 won’t be forgotten soon. Residents of northwest Missouri will deal with the aftermath for years to come as homes, roads and levees are rebuilt. Farmers will do what they can to return damaged land to production as quickly as possible, and local governments will work to restore their economies. Time will tell if the federal government lends a hand or stands in the way.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed a series of public meetings to discuss plans for managing the Missouri River. Calls for greater flood protection followed Corps officials from stop to stop. There were gut-wrenching stories of lives affected by the magnitude and duration of this year’s flooding. With the exception of Montana, all of the states in the Missouri River Basin shared a common message—flood control must play a greater role in the management of the Missouri River.
The message was loud and clear, but it remains to be seen if anything will change. On a positive note, following the public meetings, the Corps announced it will be more flexible with releases in preparing for the spring of 2012 and will analyze the impacts of increased flood storage in upper basin reservoirs.
Many important issues remain. Time is of the essence, and the Corps has indicated they will need additional funds to repair the levee system. Several members of the Missouri Congressional delegation are working to address the funding issue. U.S. Senators Blunt and McCaskill have offered amendments to 2012 spending bills that would focus additional resources on flood protection and infrastructure.
In the interim, there continues to be calls for the Corps to reallocate funds from the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP). The MRRP is designed to comply with requirements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to improve conditions for threatened and endangered species such as the pallid sturgeon, least tern and piping plover. Over time, the program has morphed into a bureaucratic stimulus act as MRRP now focuses on “ecosystem restoration” at an estimated cost of $3 billion over 40 years.
Believe it or not, a total of $616 million has been spent on MRRP since 1992. Of this amount, more than $139 million has been spent on land acquisition, $212 million on mitigation and shallow water habitat and $39 million on something called “program integration.”
“We continue to call for improvements in the bank stabilization program and can only shake our heads in disbelief that annual spending on habitat recovery programs is more than ten times that spent on operation and maintenance of the Missouri River itself,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst at the Corps’ recent public hearings.
Our priorities are out of whack and federal funds should be reallocated quickly to ensure there is no delay in the recovery process. Flood recovery and prevention should now be the focus. It is impossible for the USFWS to justify spending funds on threatened and endangered species when people are struggling to put their lives back together.
Source: Missouri Farm Bureau