JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After record or near record flooding in much of Missouri during the spring, Gov. Mike Parson told a panel Tuesday that solutions are needed to avoid similar problems in the future.
"We owe it to the many Missourians impacted by this year’s flooding to be thorough in our evaluation of recovery priorities and changes to be better prepared for future flooding," Gov. Mike Parson told his Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group as members met for their first meeting.
Working with the State Emergency Management Agency and Department of Agriculture, Parson said an estimated 1.2 million acres of Missouri farmland were flooded this year.
"As we help shape the state’s strategy, we’re looking at an overall system of flood infrastructure and how we can reduce longer-term damage," said Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Dru Buntin.
Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, Mo., hopes the need for new and larger locks on the Mississippi River will be among the flood group’s recommendations. Locks in this region have 600-foot chambers that are about half the size of modern barge tows. Although larger locks have been recommended in the Water Resources Development Act approved by Congress more than a decade ago, federal funds to build the new locks have not been appropriated.
"Our rivers are of vital importance because they are by far the cheapest and most efficient way of shipping our corn, soybeans and other crops to market worldwide. The Mississippi becomes a one-lane road during summer months, as well as harvest, because we do not have the luxury of 1,200-foot locking chambers and loads have to be split up, locked through, then reassembled on the other side of the locks in both directions. Time is money, and the longer those barges sit, the more it costs to ship them — which subtracts from the bottom line of our economic activity," Riggs said.
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, has proposed legislation that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to focus more on flood plain management and flood avoidance, rather than promoting efforts to preserve the pallid sturgeon through floods along the Missouri River.
In Hannibal, Riggs said the floods came within one foot of the record flood crest of 1993. He felt the high water should have been foreseen by river officials due to record snowfalls to the north. If they had focused on the coming snowmelt, Riggs said the water impoundments should have been releasing water long before the rivers were out of control.
Parson created the flood panel through an executive order that calls for an initial report with findings and suggestions by December 31, and a final report by May 31, 2020.
Members of the group include the Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Economic Development, Transportation, and the State Emergency Management Agency. Representatives from the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybean Association, Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, and the Missouri and Associated Rivers Coalition are members as well. Four additional members have been appointed – two representing agri-business and two representing local government interests.