The forecasts call for more flooding this year on the Missouri River, but hopes remain high among those who make their living on the river this navigation season will be a positive one.
The Missouri River Corps and U.S. Coast Guard hosted a meeting about river navigation Wednesday with federal, state and local officials at the Missouri National Guard's Ike Skelton Training Center.
David Kluck, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the group the good weather news for the river basin is temperatures are not as cold as last year. That should mean the melt from snowpack in the upper basin shouldn't be as much of a factor to the flood threat as last year.
"However, for April through July, we're still predicting above normal precipitation like we did last year," Kluck said. "Even if we predicted it would be a normal amount of precipitation, that wouldn't be good because the soil moisture is still high and the moisture has to go somewhere."
NOAA lists the flood outlook for the Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis, from March through May, as "moderate."
"I think we'd want to see a precipitation report that said less than normal, but instead, we can say at least some flooding can be assured," Kluck said.
Stuart Cook, chief of the Operations Division for the Corps of Engineers in Kansas City, said despite another round of flooding expected, the Corps still sees a lot of opportunities to work with government and industry for solutions to problems they may face.
"Our plan would be to do the very best that we could with restrictions we may face with the high water," Cook said. "We can still get out and do repairs along the river to keep navigation open to the best of our ability. We anticipate the navigation season to start on April 1."
Cook said there are a few levees along the river that have an impact on navigation, but the majority of levees damaged in last year's flooding would not have an impact.
Capt. Steve Engemann, president of Hermann Sand & Gravel Inc. and Missouri River Towing LLC, said he wants to continue working to see reliable river transportation thrive on the Missouri River.
"We are concerned about the forecast, so we are recommending to our customers that they get their silos full of fertilizer early because of the flood threat," Engemann said. "Last year's flooding affected us quite a bit. It was a less profitable year because we were down too many days."
Despite the flood threat, Engemann said, industries on the river are growing with more users each year.
"We have more competition as a towboat operator, and more docks are opening up for use on the river," Engemann said. "With a normal navigation year, I would think we would see even more growth."
Engemann described the Missouri River as "a world market" moving thousands of tons of products without many people noticing. He said his companies would be interested in using the proposed Heartland Port in Jefferson City, should the Port Authority acquire 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Skelton Training Center. Bills to transfer the land to the Port Authority are moving through both chambers this legislative season.
"When we move product, it's out of sight and out of mind," Engemann said. "We're not impeding traffic and tearing up roads. As you go east the river becomes bigger, so you could fill out your tow in Jefferson City and go down to St. Louis with a bigger tow. The economics of increasing river traffic from Jefferson City to St. Louis would be really good for the area."