Midwest Senators Introduce Legislation to Overhaul Management of Missouri River System Water Projects
Mar 05 2020
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today introduced legislation with U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) to overhaul the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) process for managing water resources projects along the lower Missouri River system. The Lower Missouri River Flood Prevention Program Act, cosponsored by all of the senators from the lower Missouri River basin states, would establish a new program that would require the USACE to implement a system-wide approach to water development projects to reduce flood risk and improve flood protection along the lower Missouri River.
“After years of inadequate flood control proposals and funding, flooding along the lower Missouri River continues to increase in intensity, devastating homes, farms and businesses,” said Sen. Moran. “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. This legislation would streamline the process of flood control project construction within the lower Missouri River Basin, empowering the Army Corps to mitigate flooding along the river to make certain Kansans’ homes and businesses are better protected in the future.”
“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,” said Sen. Blunt. “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. This bill will give the Army Corps of Engineers the ability to develop a comprehensive system plan to design and build critical flood control projects that will do a better job of protecting people and property.”
“As evidenced by the recurring flooding in the lower basin, the current approach is not working. At the federal level, we need to work toward a long term solution to our region’s flood control challenges. I’m glad that all of my Senate colleagues representing the lower basin states are making this issue a priority and will continue to work with them,” said Sen. Ernst.
“Much of Nebraska’s critical flood control infrastructure still needs repair following last year’s severe flooding,” said Sen. Fischer. “The federal government can do a better job of protecting our communities from these extreme weather events. Our bill would improve and streamline the Army Corps of Engineers’ planning and construction for flood control projects in the Lower Missouri River Basin.”
“I heard directly from Iowans across the state last year about how the historic flooding was having a devastating impact in their communities. It’s important that we learn from those experiences and do what we can to protect against and prevent future flooding. This bill will empower the Army Corps of Engineers to work with stakeholders along the Lower Missouri River to more seamlessly implement projects through the study, design and construction phases,” said Sen. Grassley.
“After last year’s catastrophic flooding, it is clear the Army Corps of Engineers has failed to manage the flood risks on the Missouri River. It is time that they put the Missourians whose homes, crops, and livelihoods have been destroyed at the top of their priority list,” said Sen. Hawley. “For months now I have pressed the Corps for answers and change is needed. The Corps should build a flood control system capable of protecting Missourians who make their living along the river and put a stop to this vicious cycle.”
“I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this key legislation to address the detrimental damage caused by flooding in Kansas and throughout the region,” said Sen. Roberts. “For years, I’ve seen firsthand the extent of the damage in areas of our state caused by floods, with this past May being the most recent example. It is time we take a system-wide approach. This bill would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to look at the Lower Missouri region as a whole and establish necessary projects to protect our communities against future flooding.”
“Nebraska farmers and ranchers have slogged through a tough year and they’ve been working hard to get back on their feet before planting season,” said Sen. Sasse. “The last thing they need is the threat of more flooding looming over them. The Army Corps has done a lot to help, but they’ve got to streamline operations. With this bill, Congress can give the Corps the direction they need to provide flood protection to landowners, communities, and citizens.”
"This historic proposal by Senator Blunt is the boldest and most meaningful proposal the lower Missouri River states have seen since the original flood control Act," said Ray County farmer and Chairman of the Missouri River Levee and Drainage District Association Tom Waters. “As a new flood season approaches, farmers and communities are grateful the entire four-state Senate delegation is pressing forward with a system that works to protect farms, communities, roads, bridges and rail traffic."
“We applaud this much needed effort to develop a comprehensive flood control program for the Missouri River system,” said President of the Missouri Farm Bureau Blake Hurst. “Simply put, we cannot continue to do things the way they have always been done and expect different results. 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. This legislation is a huge step forward and we will work hard for its passage.”
“The Coalition to Protect the Missouri River is grateful for Senator Blunt’s leadership and common-sense approach to recovery following the historic flooding that we witnessed in 2019,” said Chair of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River Lynn Muench. “The Lower Missouri River Flood Prevention Program Act cuts red tape, strengthens our ability to withstand future flooding and protects navigation – all of which are very important to our members and everyone who lives and works along the Missouri River.”
The proposal provides greater efficiencies and streamlining with regard to how the USACE plans for and manages Missouri River water resource development projects from inception to completion. Specifically, the Lower Missouri River Flood Prevention Program Act would:
- Require the Secretary of the Army to administer a program to study, design, and construct water resources development projects, and modify completed water projects, to provide flood protection to affected communities;
- Direct program authority to encompass 735 miles of the Missouri River (from Sioux City, Iowa, to the mouth of the river);
- Require the Secretary of the Army to develop a system plan for reducing flood risk and improving flood resiliency;
- Provide authority, after development of a project feasibility report, for the Secretary of the Army to construct projects where the federal share does not exceed $75 million. This would streamline and facilitate the USACE’s ability to initiate feasibility studies and planning for projects within a certain funding threshold where the agency traditionally has to seek separate authorization for these types of activities;
- Require congressional authorization for projects where the federal share exceeds $75 million. The federal cost-share for feasibility reports and construction would be 80%; and
- Require consultation with applicable federal and state agencies, tribes, and stakeholders.