Common sense seems to be making an appearance on the Missouri River, although more of it still is needed in the river's management.
Wild weather — from flooding to drought — has created havoc on the river the last two years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has acknowledged management practices need to be reconsidered to account for these events.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, new commander of the Northwestern Division that includes our part of the river basin, says officials expect more weather extremes, increasing the importance of sound management. However, he gives little hope for improving navigation on the Missouri, citing funding cuts.
The corps also notes chutes built on the river to try to create shallow water habitat for certain fish have not been successful. The rock formations have disrupted flow of the river and interfered with barge traffic.
In addition, the corps will not release extra flows this year to try to create a "spring pulse."
These decisions reflect the discretion required in balancing needs along the river — first of which must be flood control, followed by water supply, navigation and environmental conservation.
That makes a decision requiring the lowering of the levee protecting the city of Hamburg in extreme southwest Iowa very disappointing. The levee was raised eight feet in 2011 and successfully protected the community against the man-made flood for three months.
The town lobbied to keep the levee at that height, but the corps says it is not certified and either must be improved at a cost of several million dollars or the city must share in the more than $1 million expense of having it shaved back down. Reluctantly, even sadly, Hamburg city officials voted Friday to give up their fight to save the higher levee that saved the town.
Meanwhile, downstream the corps has awarded the final contract to repair levees damaged by flooding. The pace has been extremely slow for communities and landowners made vulnerable by the corps' decisions.
Despite these disappointments, the corps is moving in the right direction in prioritizing flood control and a number of common sense management practices. It's progress to see the tide may be turning on the Missouri River.
Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Distributed by The Associated Press.