As spring nears and brings the possibility of more flooding, the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group convened by Gov. Mike Parson is discussing possible recommendations that could help Missouri better prepare and respond to the next floods.
The flood recovery group does not have to give Parson an initial report and list of recommendations until the end of December, but the group discussed its list so far Friday at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' facility on East Elm Street in Jefferson City.
As of now, that list includes measures the state could take on its own, in conjunction with other states or that Missouri would have to petition Congress for assistance or action on:
Develop a guide of state and federal flood recovery assistance to let people know what resources are available to them in a flood.
Explore soil and water conservation practices that could improve Missouri's drought resiliency and reduce flood risks.
Continue to coordinate with Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska to establish "a leading voice" in how the Missouri River is operated.
Acting DNR director Dru Buntin said all four states have executed agreements on a six-month study of the most problematic flow constriction points on the river and are working on memorandums of agreement outlining how the states will continue to work together on recovery and river management.
Develop an enhanced flood monitoring system such as Iowa's.
A couple committee members voiced concerns they had heard from Iowa residents the system was not as effective on the Missouri River as it's been presented for waters such as the Des Moines River, but Buntin did not want to focus too much on Iowa's system. "This would be us creating what makes sense for Missouri," he said
He said Missouri is already looking at deploying a soil-moisture monitoring system, using previously appropriated funding, and the University of Missouri is looking at developing water-level sensors to place on bridges.
Assess and more accurately characterize impacts to agriculture from 2019's floods that may extend for years and have Missouri's Congressional delegation push for corresponding revisions to the Federal Crop Insurance Program.
Have interstate coordination between governors and congressional delegations of states where there has been recent flooding, and push for improved flood control infrastructure across the country.
Recommend changes to the federal government's levee program that allow for a longer-term view of repair costs, "resulting in exploration of creative options for levee resilience and lowering the likelihood of complete levee failure and repeated repair costs."
Pursue flood control strategies that consider structural and non-structural options that may be appropriate for a particular area, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, and involve local landowners and communities.
The flood recovery group also heard presentations on floodplain easements and levee set-back projects Friday.
Funding for such measures is so far limited. Missouri has received $9 million for easements that could be used to return floodplain areas back to something close to their natural states, but there have been $70 million in requests.
Dave Crane, an environmental resources specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Omaha District, said no money is available for land acquisition for levee set-back projects in the Omaha or Kansas City districts through the Missouri River Recovery Program.
To set back a levee means to move its current position farther away from a river and thereby return some land to the floodplain — which can reduce the height and flow rates of floods and create wetland habitat.
Public comment at the meeting included Jose Cruz, a farmer in Callaway County who's also the president of the Wainwright levee district.
As he did at the group's previous meeting, Cruz advocated for more fortification of levees but was open to the idea of levee set-backs, so longs as farmers such as him would be compensated with the fair market value of their land.
The flood recovery group's next meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 9 at the Lewis and Clark State Office Building, 1101 Riverside Drive in Jefferson City.
After the initial report and recommendations in December, the flood recovery group will submit a final report by the end of May 2020.