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After last year’s damage, Blunt offers bill to curb flooding along Missouri River

March 05, 2020

Sen. Roy Blunt introduced legislation Thursday to overhaul the U.S. Army Corps Engineers after the agency’s management of the Missouri River was blamed for exacerbating floods that devastated the region last year.

The bill would direct the corps to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of flooding from Sioux City, Iowa to the river’s mouth at Spanish Lake, near St. Louis, a 735-mile stretch.

“After the historic flooding we saw over last spring and in previous years, it is clear that we need to fundamentally change the way the Missouri River is managed,” Blunt said in a statement.

“Farmers, families, and local officials I’ve talked to are rightly concerned with the lack of progress that has been made in repairing damaged infrastructure and putting stronger protections in place for the future. We can’t just sit by and wait for the next major flood event.”

The legislation has the backing of every senator from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, the four states most adversely affected by last year’s flooding, which damaged homes and destroyed crops.

The bill is meant as a long-term solution, not a preventive measure for what promises to be another brutal round of flooding this year.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said in a statement that rather than “taking ineffective reactionary measures after severe flooding occurs, this legislation would provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the necessary tools to create a comprehensive, long-term solution instead of another temporary fix.”

The other two Republican senators from the Kansas City region, Sens. Josh Hawley and Pat Roberts, have also signed on as co-sponsors.

Blunt’s bill calls for the corps to modify existing projects for greater flood protection. It would also require congressional approval for all river management projects in which the federal government’s cost exceeds $75 million.

Tom Waters, a Ray County farmer who chairs the Missouri River Levee and Drainage District Association, called it the “the boldest and most meaningful proposal” to curb flooding since the flood control acts passed during the first half of the 20th Century.

There’s been a decades-long debate about the Army Corps’ management of the river, and many farmers in the region held the agency accountable after last year’s devastating floods.

Blake Hurst, the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, applauded the legislation as a step forward.

“Simply put, we cannot continue to do things the way they have always been done and expect different results,” Hurst said in a statement. “We should use what was learned from recent flood events and take bold steps to build a system that provides improved flood protection throughout the lower Missouri River basin.”

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