U.S. Army Corps of Engineers defends actions during spring flooding

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GLENWOOD, Iowa (NBC) – There’s fresh criticism of the federal agency that manages dams along the Missouri River, following historic flooding that breached dozens of levees in southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska.

At Wednesday morning hearing, in Glenwood, Iowa, which was one of the town’s hardest hit by flooding, four U.S. Senators questioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its flood response. Much of the discussion looked at how to prevent a disaster like this from happening again.

The hearing, which was chaired by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, of Iowa, also drew Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is also running for president. Gillibrand said the Army Corps is too slow and too bureaucratic, and that it doesn’t have enough money to complete needed preventative projects. “I am very concerned that after the Army Corps prioritizes these projects, the Office of Management and Budget applies its own cost-benefit analysis that further restricts the funding of these projects virtually eliminating your ability to construct more lifesaving initiatives, especially in rural communities like Iowa,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York.

The Army Corps told folks at the meeting that at least 32 levee systems were completely underwater, along with more than 100 breaches from Council Bluffs to the Kansas City area. And, the work to repair them will be time-consuming, and costly. “The cost to repair each of those breach sites is anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to tens of millions of dollars,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The man in charge of the system of dams along the Missouri River says the Army Corps couldn’t have prevented the flooding, this spring, because of the large amount of water that flowed into the river downstream of the dams.

Critics say the other priorities for the river, such as protecting endangered species, work against flood control.

Matt Breen

Matt Breen

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