Gov. Mike Parson and others on Tuesday presented new estimates of the damage done by this year's flooding, as the flood recovery group Parson established in July met for the first time.
Parson created the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group by executive order, and the group is meant to provide input on the state's short-, medium- and long-term flood recovery, including possible improvements.
Parson reiterated Tuesday at the group's first meeting — at the Lewis and Clark State Office Building in Jefferson City — what he's said before: After this year's flooding, Missouri cannot go back to the way things were done before, and the state must find ways "to lessen the impacts of the next flood."
Through working with the State Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Agriculture, Parson said, it's estimated that flooding this year impacted 1.2 million acres of farmland in the state.
He also cited a report from the United States Department of Agriculture that crop planting was prevented on 1.3 million acres of farmland in the state — the fourth highest total in the United States, after Illinois, Ohio and South Dakota — which represents 23 percent of Missouri's intended corn acreage and almost 10 percent of its intended soybean acreage.
Collin Olsen — the USDA's Risk Management Agency's regional director — reported as of Friday, there had been 12,302 claims filed in Missouri for crop losses, and more than $100 million had been paid in compensation.
Olsen said, "You're not going to see any dramatic swings" in crop insurance premiums — which he said are calculated on 20-year averages — but cautioned that local rates reflect local risks, meaning a field unprotected by a breached levee could still see an insurance premium increase.
Commanders and other staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha and Rock Island districts are members of the flood recovery advisory group, and they spoke to progress of assessment and repairs to the levee systems.
The Corps leaders said funding has not been an issue in getting assessments and repairs done — though high water has been an issue that slows full assessments, with many levees still underwater, said Col. William Hannan Jr., the Kansas City district's commander and district engineer.
The Corps has estimated it could cost more than $1 billion to repair levees damaged by this year's flooding in the Missouri River basin. Flooding and severe storms have caused an estimated $1.2 billion of additional damage to public infrastructure in about two dozen states, according to an Associated Press analysis.
In terms of transportation infrastructure, the Missouri Department of Transportation's emergency management liaison Chris Engelbrecht reported 330 sites were impacted by flooding — but that number continues to grow — and only 262 of the 330 sites identified so far have been formally assessed for damage.
Engelbrecht gave a total damage estimate of $40.6 million.
Hannan added Tuesday that while funding has not been an issue for fixing levees, the money that's available will not be enough to cover every levee, and funding will become an issue at some point in the future.
Missouri joined Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska in submitting a study proposal Tuesday to the Corps, said Dru Buntin, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' deputy director.
The study, which could take up to six months to complete, would identify pinch points such as levees, roads or bridge embankments that can constrict and slow the river's flow, causing water to accumulate upstream from the points.
Federal, state and local officials then could come up with alternatives as part of a regional approach to reducing the damage from future floods, Buntin said of what could be done with the analysis.
The Corps' Omaha District commander and district engineer Col. John Hudson cautioned, however, that removing pinch points is not a long-term solution — removing some pinch points just creates others in different areas.
Hudson said the bigger challenge for managing the river is its overall carrying capacity — a "much more complex" issue that has to take into account river levels' extremes in times of drought and flood.
An initial report by the flood recovery advisory group is due to the governor by Dec. 31, and a final report will be due May 31, 2020, when the group will be dissolved.
Other agencies and organizations represented in the group — in addition to the Army Corps of Engineers, SEMA, MoDOT, the DNR, and state and federal agriculture departments — include the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, the Missouri and Associated Rivers Coalition and the state's corn and soybean associations.
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, was in the audience of Tuesday's meeting.
Parson's office said in a news release that about 100 people attended the first meeting, which was open to the public.
Griffith recently launched efforts to mitigate future flooding in Jefferson City, specifically targeting Wears Creek.
While Parson's task force has a state-level focus, Griffith said, he was encouraged to hear about collaboration and cooperation between state departments on issues of flooding.
Griffith, who has lived in the area long enough to witness multiple floods in addition to this year's, said there's "a lot of talk while (floods are) going on, but as soon as the water recedes and the grass grows green, we have a tendency to forget what causes the problem."
He said he would like lawmakers in the spring to work with the governor's office to see if their top priorities on flooding can align.
"May for me is a long time away. I would like to see something done before May," he said of the final report to Parson by the flood recovery advisory group, but Griffith added he understands the wheels of government turn slowly.
He said what Parson has done in working with Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska is a good start.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.