OMAHA, Neb. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is likely to get an earful when it holds public meetings on its plan for managing the Missouri River next year because many people have criticized the way the agency handled this year's record flooding.
Several hundred thousand acres of land were swamped and hundreds of homes had to be evacuated. The fact that the flooding started in the spring and continued into fall only made matters worse.
The corps manages the more than 2,300-mile-long river, which flows from Montana through North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. Corps officials said they had to release massive amounts of water from the dams along the river to deal with unexpectedly heavy spring rains and melt from an above-average snowpack.
"The amount of runoff that came into the system this year was the highest level we have seen in 114 years of detailed record keeping," said Jody Farhat, chief of the corps' Missouri River water management division.
The floodwaters began retreating only in the past few weeks, and it may be mid-to-late October before the flooding ends.
The corps will hold eight public meetings in cities along the river between Oct. 24 and Nov. 3. Each of the events will include an afternoon open house where people can meet one-on-one with corps officials and an evening presentation and question-and-answer session.
The draft plan the corps developed for the river next year calls for drawing the reservoirs down enough to get rid of the floodwater collected this year, but the corps decided not to clear out any additional flood-storage space in the reservoirs beyond the usual 16.3 million acre feet of water.
The corps says that typical amount of flood storage has proven sufficient most years. Plus, officials wanted to reduce the amount of water in the river so levee repairs can be made before winter.
Many people who live along the river and the governors of seven river states have questioned the way the river was managed this year. Signs declaring "This flood brought to you by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" were a common sight along the river.
So, the corps is expecting a lot of interest in these public meetings.
"We know there are lots of questions and viewpoints about how the corps operated the Missouri River main-stem system through this flood event," Farhat said.
The corps will record public comments made during the meeting. People also can submit written comments through Nov. 25 via email to Missouri.Water.Management@nwd02.usace.army.mil.