More Help for Flood NW Missouri’s Flood-Ravaged Holt County
February 20, 2012

(AP) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded an $888,000 contract to repair a northwestern Missouri levee damaged during last year’s flooding.

The Union Township Levee along the Missouri River in Holt County had four breaches and crown erosion. The Corps says Ideker Inc., of St. Joseph, has won the contract to repair the levee.

Northwestern Missouri suffered extensive spring and summer flooding along the river after releases from upstream reservoirs. To date, the Corps’ Kansas City office has awarded six contracts to repair seven levees along the Missouri.

Two Area Eyewitnesses to Flood of 2011 to Testify before Congress Next Week.
November 23, 2011

Two area people who saw the full effects of the 2011 flood will take their stories to Congress next week.

Holt County Clerk Kathy Kunkel and the President of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, Tom Waters, will appeared November 30 before a House subcommittee on water resources and infrastructure.

In Holt County, Kunkel says 160,000 acres of ground were either flooded or affected by the flood. Holt County has about 456 square miles she said. It was one of the hardest hit counties in the state. Kunkle says 5 Holt County towns and 112 miles of road were damaged by the flood.

In addition, she says 32 farm levees in the county were breached by the flood. Two federal levees did not break but were badly damaged, she claims..

Waters testified earlier this year to Congress. He has been very critical of the Corps of Engineer’s plans for rebuilding the damaged levee in Missouri.

Kunkle made headline earlier this year with her criticism of the Corps’ management of the Missouri river and its handling of the flood.

She accused the Corps of “devastation by design”, for record-setting releases of water from the reservoirs in the Upper Missouri basin.

The Corps says heavier than expected rains in the northern plains caused the excessive releases.

Kunkel says she expected to talk about the Corps’ land acquisition program along the Missouri River bottom lands.

Earlier this year, a letter went out just as the flood started in northwest Missouri asking property owners if they wanted to be ‘willing sellers” to the Corp’s land mitigation program.

The Corps admitted the timing of that letter was bad, and it should not have been sent out at that time.

Kunkel says between the property the Corps already has purchased in holt County and the Squaw Creek Wildlife Preserve, there is a lot of land in Holt County that is not on the tax rolls.

Kunkel says the Corps pays Holt County $18,000 a year in lieu of taxes. But she insisted if the ground was on the tax rolls, the county would get $36,000 more dollars.

“It’s like having a strip mall, and taking a couple of the small stores off the books”, she said.

Kunkel also wants to tell Congress the Corps needs to fully repair levees, not just patch them. She says she’s also worried about the levees in southwestern Iowa that breached. Those levees were one of the key factors that shut down Interstate 29 in northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa. Kunkel says that also contributed to Holt County’s economic struggles. Two truck stops in the County went out of business because of the lack of traffic.

Army Corps Launches Independent Investigation of Corps Handling of 2011 Flood
September 21, 2011

The US Army Corps of Engineers says it’s launching an independent investigation of how the Corp handled the flood of 2011. The Corps has been under intense criticism for the flooding. The Corp admitted it was forced to release record amounts of water from its Upper Missouri River basin storage areas. The flooding swamped seven states bordering the Missouri River, including Kansas and Missouri.

“This team will help shed light on whether there is anything we could have done differently to prevent this year’s flood and provide us with recommendations for improving future operations”, said Witt Anderson, the Director of programs for Northwest Division.

Earlier this year officials in heavily damaged Holt County Missouri in the northwest part of Missouri accused the Corps of “devastation by design”, for how the Corps handled the flood. At one time, resident were considering printing up t-shirts that said, “Corps-trina”

In a news release, the Corps said, “As part of post-flood assessment efforts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division, has enlisted the assistance of experts in hydrology and/or dam and reservoir system operations and maintenance to review, analyze and assess the Corps’ operation of the six main stem dams along the Missouri River leading up to, and during the Flood of 2011.

The review panel members are:

• Bill Lawrence, Hydrologist In Charge (HIC), National Weather Service

• Darwin Ockerman, Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey

• Cara McCarthy, Senior Forecast Hydrologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service

National Water and Climate Center

• Neil Grigg, PhD, Professor, Colorado State University”

The Corps continues to be criticized. Several members of Congress, including many from Missouri are co-sponsoring a bill in Congress calling for reforms in how the Corp operates.

Wednesday, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt added to the criticism. He said the corps “is taking a gamble” by not increase storage space in the Upper basin so it can accommodate the waters of 2012. Blunt says he told the Corps they were not taking enough steps to protect the region from future flooding.

Corps of Engineers: River Back to Normal by December
September 7, 2011

The US Army Corps of Engineers says the Missouri River flooding is ending.

In a news release Tuesday night, the Corp’s Missouri River stream manager Jody Farhat says releases from storage lakes in the Upper Missouri River Basin continued to be scaled back, “and release drawdown strategy is proceeding as planned.

Large portions of the Missouri River were flooded for most of the summer. The flooding was prompted by record-setting water releases by the Corps from it’s upstream storage areas.

The releases, according to the Corps, were due to a large snowpack in the mountains near thew headwaters of the Missouri River. The “game changer”, as the Corps often puts it, was much-larger-than-expected rainfall in the northern plains states.

That forced the Corps to release huge amounts of water through its dams. At one point, the dams were sending 160,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) downstream. That flooded parts of North Dakota, South Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.

“Reservoir releases out of Gavins Point Dam were reduced to 90,000 cfs on Aug. 30”, according to a Corps statement.

“Releases will be held steady through Sept. 15 to prevent sloughing of water-logged levees, dams, and riverbanks, and to allow for preliminary inspection and assessment of infrastructure and levees before the final drawdown to normal reservoir releases commences.”

“The releases will be slightly above normal going into fall, but we’re doing our best to remain on schedule because of the importance of evacuating the stored flood water before the start of next year’s runoff season,” Farhat said.

Criticism of the Corps action has been fierce throughout the region. Officials in Holt County, Missouri described it as “devastation by design”. Holt County claims their have an area the size of the city of Chicago underwater.

The controversy has led to calls for the Corps Missouri River management practices to be reviewed by the federal government.

The statement by the Corps says it hopes to have the water releases along the Missouri River back to normal around December.

Northwest Missouri Flood Repairs Caught Up in FEMA Cash Crunch
September 5, 2011

From the St. Joseph News Press via johncombest:

As Hurricane Irene made its way into communities on the East Coast last week, State Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, couldn’t help but wonder if the hurricane would divert interest and funds away from Missouri’s disasters.

That suspicion was confirmed a week later when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it would delay funds for long-term response, recovery and rebuilding projects. Gov. Jay Nixon has called on FEMA to identify which of Missouri’s disaster recovery projects could be affected. According to the governor’s news release, FEMA said in an intergovernmental advisory that the funding restrictions were necessary to “ensure that resources are available to provide emergency assistance for ongoing disasters, such as Hurricane Irene.”

Regardless of the funding delays from the federal government, the Missouri Department of Transportation will work to get the roads repaired or rebuilt when the water recedes, said Melissa Black, customer relations manager for MoDOT’s northwest district.

Ms. Black said they’ve not been promised funds, but anticipate receiving them at some point, probably 75 to 85 percent of the total cost. Interstate and U.S. route repair funding will likely come from the Federal Highway Administration, and funding for repairs to lower-volume routes will come from FEMA, she said.

Mr. Thomson, a member of the interim committee on disaster relief, tended to a small disaster of his own last week after a wind and hail storm, which took down thousands of acres of crops in Northwest Missouri, took aim on his house. But he’s also actively involved with residents in his district hit hardest by the summer-long flood in Atchison and Holt counties.

Due to the fact that much of the damage in Atchison and Holt counties is still hidden under water, assessments aren’t as forthcoming as they were in Joplin. And while Joplin’s disaster has gotten more attention than the flooding in Northwest Missouri, he is fairly certain that in the long run, the damage in Northwest Missouri will be costlier (though obviously not in human lives) than that in Joplin.

U.S. Highway 136 from Rock Port, going west across the Missouri River, is a major artery for Northwest Missouri residents heading to work at the power plant in Brownville, Neb. That road may well be destroyed. The situation has spurred numerous e-mails to Mr. Thomson, asking that he make that stretch of road a priority.

“There are a lot of roads up here that aren’t just damaged, they’re gone,” he said. “We’re not talking about potholes. They’ll have to be completely re-engineered and redone. It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money.”

Ms. Black said that stretch of road is a priority for MoDOT, but because most of that area is still under water, they aren’t able to give an estimate of when the road can be rebuilt. She said people like to try to make comparisons to damage caused by the flood in 1993, but that flood didn’t include three months of moving water over the roadways.

“This is our top priority, to get these roads open,” she said.

There are no ballpark guesses coming from MoDOT on the cost to repair these roads, though Ms. Black said it will be in the millions.

Mr. Thomson said one damaged levee in Holt County, in particular, could exceed $2.5 million to replace, and that’s only one levee. Farmers along the river bottom obviously won’t have a crop this year, but the floodwaters have likely dumped thousands of tons of sand and debris on the topsoil. The land may not be tillable for years, which compounds the economic impact of the flooding.

Missouri got off to a bad start in 2011 with a massive winter storm in late January, prompting an emergency declaration from President Barack Obama, making federal funds available.

Missourians affected by the severe storms and flooding have received $77.5 million in disaster grants and loans, according to FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration. FEMA has approved $53.4 million in disaster grants and loans to survivors of the Joplin tornado.