Missouri has plan to develop flood monitoring system

The North Jefferson City Recreation Area was still underwater in June 2019 while the Missouri River was in major flood stage. The Missouri River at Jefferson City was in flood stage for 53 days in 2019 from May 21 to July 13.

Inspired by neighboring Iowa's flood-monitoring system, a Missouri group tasked with giving recommendations on building flood resiliency to the governor by the end of the month heard a presentation Wednesday on how the state could develop a similar system.

The Missouri Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group formed last year after the historic flooding of spring and summer 2019 along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The group is working to guide the state's priorities for recovery, including on how to prevent or mitigate future damage from flooding.

The group gave an interim report in December to Gov. Mike Parson, with some preliminary recommendations, and a final report is due to Parson by May 31.

Joel Burken - chair of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering department at Missouri S&T - gave a presentation to the group Wednesday about Missouri developing its own flood-monitoring system.

Such a system - the Missouri Water Information System, or MoWIS - could help the state forecast flooding in real time and more quickly estimate damage.

Burken said the system would be a partnership between university engineers - primarily at Missouri S&T and the University of Missouri - the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Missouri Geological Survey, Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Flood Center.

The system would use seed funding and future baseline funding from the state to pursue and leverage federal funds, Burken said.

He did not immediately say how much seed or baseline funding would be needed, but the flood recovery group was told last fall Iowa's system has involved $1.2 million-$1.5 million in state appropriations each year.

Once in place, Missouri's system would not immediately involve all watersheds - more of which would be included over time, Burken said.

In March, the flood recovery group was told the Missouri Department of Natural Resources was planning to install soil moisture sensors at 15 sites across the state to collect data on groundwater. Such sensors are also a component of Iowa's flood-monitoring system.