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Governors meet with Army Corps of Engineers to discuss progress along Missouri River

The governors of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri met in Council Bluffs on Thursday, April 8, 2021,...
The governors of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri met in Council Bluffs on Thursday, April 8, 2021, to discuss Missouri River management.
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:15 PM CDT
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COUNCIL BLUFFS, Neb. (WOWT) - Three governors in the region met with the Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday for a fourth time to discuss managing the Missouri River.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was pressing the Army Corps of Engineers for answers, hoping to prevent another flooding disaster along the river. The region has been hammered twice in the last decade, causing billions of dollars in damage and forcing hundreds of people from their homes and livelihoods.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arrived for the 3 p.m. meeting at the Council Bluffs Police Department first, followed by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, and then Ricketts. 6 News was told that the governor of Kansas was unable to make it to the meeting.

In Spring 2019, the four governors demanded a seat at the table insisting there had to be a better way to manage the Missouri River while being as transparent as possible when it comes to controlling the release — and the levees built to protect communities along the way.

Images and stories from up and down the Missouri River during and after the Heartland Flood are memorable: Roads destroyed by high water. Homes were no longer safe. The runway at Offutt Air Force Base underwater. Fields left unplantable for years.

For many along the river, the floodwaters from two years ago may be gone, but the problems left behind are still there. Thousands of lives were torn apart as record-setting flooding swept down the Missouri River. Since then, regional governors have demanded changes in how the government deals with flood prevention.

The Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with three things:

  1. Close the holes, or breeches, in the levee.
  2. Restore the levees.
  3. Figure out how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Thursday, the governors met with them for a little more than an hour behind glass doors for a progress report on the levee repair. The corps says the second phase is nearly complete.

“The headline from this meeting with the Army Corps that began out of the work with the governors: We are seeing changes, as opposed to what happened after the 2011 flood,” Ricketts said after the meeting. “After that, not much happened. The system didn’t change. What the Army Corps is doing now is innovations.”

Reynolds pointed to the speed and funding efforts — and raising the levee in the Hamburg, Iowa, a community suffering through floods for years.

“I appreciate the timeliness, flexibility, and innovation to make that happen,” she said.

The four regional governors first got together in April 2019, at that time shouting from the rooftops that they needed a seat at the table with the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Get the message out: We’re not going to wait until the next flood to do something,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday. “That is a priority of all governors.”

It was eight years earlier that the region was first devastated by widespread flooding along the Missouri River.

Col. Mark Himes with the Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha district said that “after the 2019 flood, we were challenged with how to do things differently and think out of the box.”

The governors agreed they are seeing progress, but the work is not over.

“We are committed to working with the Army Corps to protect life and property,” Ricketts said.

The next phase: studying and determining what to do so the catastrophic flooding doesn’t happen again. That will take three to five years.

Ricketts said Thursday that he’s encouraged that it looks like the year’s forecast calls for normal to drier conditions.

Watch Thursday’s full statement from the governors

This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.

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