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Senators want to know next year's Missouri River flood plan

Monday, August 8, 2011 | 5:58 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON — Senators from seven states lining the Missouri River on Monday asked the Army Corps of Engineers to outline plans for next year's flood preparations.

The senators wrote in a letter sent to two top Corps officials that the agency must learn from this year's devastating flood season and apply those lessons to next year's plan.

"We believe it is critical that lessons learned from this year's event be factored into next year's plan and that appropriate mechanisms be incorporated to allow for deviation from that plan," the senators wrote to Maj. Gen. William T. Grisoli, deputy commanding general, and Brig. Gen. John McMahon, commander of the Northwest Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps has come under sharp criticism for its management of the Missouri River, which endured a brutal flood season. Levees were compromised in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri after heavy spring rains and late snowmelt.

In addition to asking for a plan of preparations for next year, the senators are asking the Corps what authority the Corps needs to make changes to its annual operating plan for the river and whether any additional authority will be needed.

"Based on our discussions, we understand the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has authority to make one-year adjustments to the Missouri River Master Water Control Manual as part of the system's annual operating plan and that your after action review of this year's flood event will form the basis for any adjustments to the 2012 operating plan," the senators wrote.

The letter is a byproduct of the newly formed Missouri River Working Group. Squabbles among river states — who have different priorities depending on where they fall along the river — have been common in the past, but the senators met as a group earlier this year and, for the first time, made clear they were open to a broader strategy for managing the river.

The senators in the working group, who all signed on to the letter, are from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Montana.

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