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Working group to guide flood recovery created

Working group to guide flood recovery created

July 19th, 2019 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

In this June 5, 2019 photo, floodwaters cover the bridge over Wears Creek on Dunklin Street, halting progress on a project to replace the deteriorating structure. Meanwhile, construction equipment is seen continuing to work on Dunklin near Broadway Street.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson established a working group Thursday to guide the state's flood recovery and control efforts. On the same afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers upped its Missouri River upper basin runoff forecast — expected to be the second-highest in a 121-year record.

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Also Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to consider Missouri's request to expand last week's federal disaster declaration to 21 counties, including Callaway County.

Flood recovery working group formed

Parson established Missouri's Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group with an executive order.

He said in news release this year's record-level flooding that's overtopped or breached more than 80 levees "has been devastating, costing millions of dollars in property damage. This working group will play a key role in establishing Missouri's path forward to rebuilding infrastructure, revitalizing damaged farm ground and refocusing our flood-control priorities."

The working group's focus will be short-, mid- and long-term flood recovery. "The working group will identify areas where attention is needed and provide input on priorities for allocation of state funding as Missouri recovers from this year's flooding. In addition to addressing short-term repairs to levees, the group will also explore options to improve the conveyance of floodwater through Missouri's major rivers," according to the news release.

Parson and other government leaders have been critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' management of the Missouri River system amid this year's flooding.

Parson's executive order directs the flood recovery working group to submit an initial report to him with findings and suggestions by Dec. 31, with a final report due May 31, 2020.

Members of the group will include the Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Economic Development, Transportation and the State Emergency Management Agency, as well as representatives of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybean Association, the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, the Missouri and Associated Rivers Coalition, local governments and others, according to the news release.

Corps: Flood damage costs continue to rise

In a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division conference call Thursday, John Leighow — the Corps' chief of the Northwestern Division's Readiness and Contingency Operations division — said the damage cost of this year's flooding continues to climb as waters recede and allow engineers to make more detailed assessments of about 150 miles of damaged levees.

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"The drier weather has enabled us to gain more granularity on the extent of the cost of damages throughout the region. Currently, the cost of these efforts is around $123 million and is climbing. That's $3 million more than what we had last week," Leighow said.

He did not anticipate any budget constraints for recovery efforts, but cautioned the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is approaching — "the peak of hurricane season that will compete for the same resources we have or we need for our recovery efforts."

Jud Kneuvean, chief of Emergency Management with the Corps' Kansas City District, said the district had received 97 requests for assistance — 79 requests from non-federal levee systems and 18 requests from federal systems.

Kneuvean said 25 levee systems still had 2 or more feet of water at their base, limiting the ability to do full damage assessments in some areas.

In terms of damage assessments, he said, 20 project information reports have been completed, and 15 have been approved and are in the engineering and design phase.

The Missouri River's upper basin runoff — that's above Sioux City, Iowa — was at 42.2 million acre feet, as of July 15, John Remus said on the call.

Remus is the chief of the Corps' Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

He said the runoff for the upper basin for the year so far "is more than the total runoff above Sioux City in 2018. The to-date runoff total of 42.2 million acre feet has already made 2019 the third-highest runoff in the 121-year record."

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One acre foot of water is enough to submerge a football field under a foot of water, according to the state of California's nonprofit Water Education Foundation.

The Missouri River's runoff to date would be enough to cover California in about 4 inches of water, and every additional 5 million acre feet would add about another half-inch of depth.

Remus said the runoff forecast for the year was upped earlier this week to 52.4 million acre feet — an increase of 2.5 million acre feet above the forecast on July 1 — on account of more rain, wet soil and a continued expectation of above-average precipitation.

If this year's runoff forecast holds, Remus said, 2019's upper basin record would only be behind 2011's record of 61 million acre feet.

Remus said normal river levels wouldn't be expected until the winter, and with northern snow pack melted, the main driver of any future changes to the forecast would be precipitation.

Mike Swenson, power production team leader, said it has forecast Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota will continue to release 70,000 cfs "into August" to manage reservoir levels.

Eric Shumate, chief of hydrologic engineering for the Kansas City District, said the Harry S. Truman Dam was releasing 50,000 cfs, and the intent was for that level of outflow to continue "for at least the next week," as long as downstream conditions permit.

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Shumate said 58 percent of Truman's flood storage pool was full, "which is about a 10 percent drop from this call last week."

"We're continuing to see improvements across the entire Osage basin," he said.

Ameren Missouri reported online Thursday that Bagnell Dam was releasing about 49,788 cfs.

The Osage River at Mari-Osa Campground was at 21.3 feet Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, and the forecast was for the level to stay at that depth through Tuesday — in minor flood stage.

The Missouri River was below flood stage at about 22 feet, where the level was forecast to remain through about the rest of the month.

FEMA agrees to consider expanding declaration

On Thursday, FEMA agreed to Missouri's request to consider expanding last week's federal disaster declaration. FEMA agreed to re-evaluate the request for inclusion of 21 counties that were denied federal assistance on July 9.

FEMA agreed to:

Conduct new damage assessment with the State Emergency Management Agency and local officials in counties where newly identified damaged homes have been found;

Use ground teams to further assess areas that had previously been reviewed only by helicopter;

Re-evaluate insurance levels and income levels as factors in the ability to recover in some of the affected counties.

The 21 counties are Adair, Barton, Callaway, Christian, Clark, Cooper, Dallas, Douglas, Gasconade, Grundy, Harrison, Hickory, Howard, Jefferson, Laclede, Lewis, Macon, Polk, Saline, St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve. All 21 counties had been denied assistance in President Donald Trump's July 9 federal disaster declaration.

FEMA said the damage assessments would begin Tuesday.

If approved, FEMA Individual Assistance would allow eligible residents to seek federal assistance for temporary housing, housing repairs, replacement of damaged belongings, vehicles, and other qualifying expenses as a result of the flooding and storms.

To register for FEMA assistance, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or register by phone by calling 800-621-FEMA. Telephone registration is available 7 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week.