Flood control has been the focus along the Missouri River since early in 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday. And flooding in Mid-Missouri could have been much worse this year if not for a break in the weather, they added.
Missouri's Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group met again Friday in Jefferson City and heard from the Corps about the management of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers — both of which saw record flooding this year that caused major damages to crops, levees and roads.
Gov. Mike Parson created the working group by executive order, and the group is intended to provide input on the state's short-, medium- and long-term flood recovery, including possible improvements.
Parson and other government leaders have been critical of the Corps' management of the Missouri River system amid this year's flooding.
The Corps on Friday explained how levees are managed, how water flows through the system of dams on the Missouri River and what guides decisions on whether and when to release water.
Col. William Hannan Jr., district commander and engineer of the Corps' Kansas City District, said he's been asked why the Corps does not draw down water levels in the system more often. Hannan said those decisions have to be made early in the year — when it's also difficult to get accurate snow pack and rainfall forecasts for the months ahead.
Eric Shumate, chief of hydrologic engineering for the Kansas City District, said the Corps' Missouri River system is a runoff system — "whatever comes in has to go out" — and the only operations since March 2018 have been about flood control.
Shumate said there have not been releases of water for threatened and endangered wildlife in two years.
The Corps has a list of purposes for managing the Missouri River, including for flood control, navigation, water supply, irrigation and wildlife.
Shumate said that just because something's a management purpose doesn't mean it's a priority, and he added "Our number one priority is always life saving."
He said the Harry S. Truman Dam came within a week this spring of having to release enough water to raise the level of the Lake of the Ozarks by at least 6 or 7 feet, had rainfall continued as it had been coming down.
That would have also meant increased releases of water from Ameren Missouri's Bagnell Dam downstream that would have exacerbated flooding on the Osage River.
In terms of damage to levees that was done by flooding this year, Jud Kneuvean — chief of emergency management with the Corps' Kansas City District — said 106 requests for assistance had been received, and of those, 43 had been approved.
Kneuvean was pleased with the rate of progress.
Also at Friday's meeting, Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said Department of Natural Resources Director Carol Comer and she would co-chair the working group.
The working group is expected to give Parson a report on initial findings and suggestions by the end of the year, with a final report due in May 2020.
The group's next meetings are 1-4 p.m. Oct. 17, 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 22 and 9 a.m.-noon Dec. 9.