Missouri River farmland flooding near Kansas City, Mo.
Missouri River farmland flooding near Kansas City, Mo.

Historic flooding along the Missouri River basin this summer has spurred two Kansas legislators into proposing new flood prevention strategies. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) have introduced a bill that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to take into account all precipitation data from this year’s record river levels to help reduce the risk of future floods. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

The bill would require the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, to take into account all hydrologic data, including rainfall and snowpack, affecting Missouri River basin operations. The bill would require the data to be included in any and all plans involved with managing the Missouri River.

This year’s flooding was triggered by record snowfall in the Rocky Mountains and near-record spring rainfall in central and eastern Montana. Six major dams along the Missouri River continue to release record amounts of water flooding countless acres of low-lying farmland in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri as well as putting countless small towns at risk.

The USDA has designated 15 counties in Nebraska alone as disaster areas as a result of flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries. Six counties in Iowa, six in South Dakota, three in Kansas and two in Missouri also were designated as disaster areas this week. Flood waters in many areas are expected to remain through August.

“After witnessing the wrath of the Missouri River from a helicopter’s perspective, and then visiting with Kansans in Elwood and Atchison, it became extremely clear that the Army Corps of Engineers must incorporate all hydrologic data into how they manage the Missouri River basin operations,” said Roberts.

“Preventing these devastating floods that place people, property and businesses at risk should be the highest priority in our river management strategies,” Jenkins said. The best way to ensure this is to consider and study all the available factors that lead to flooding, not simply one segment of data.”

Sen. Roberts toured the Missouri River flood areas earlier this month with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in Doniphan and Atchison Counties to see how emergency responders are handling the flooding. Roberts also met this past week with members of the Missouri River Working Group to focus on how the flooding Missouri River should be managed, with flood control being the top priority.

The Missouri River Working Group is comprised of members of Congress from the states where the Missouri River runs, including Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.