Fourth District U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, toured a 7-mile section of the Missouri River on Wednesday afternoon with farmers and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers to learn about river management and offer her thoughts afterward.
The boat carrying Hartzler and a little less than a dozen others arrived at Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale after launching from the ramp there and boating upstream to Rocheport. She and the farmers wore jeans, ball caps and orange life vests. A barge carrying wind turbine blades plowed its way upstream through the strong Big Muddy current as the small boat carrying Hartzler and the others pulled back into the Katfish Katy’s ramp.
After the damage to the levees from last summer’s floods, which inundated river bottoms for more than 250 days, Hartzler decided to add a river trip to her annual farm tour. Joined by farmers and Col. William Hannan Jr. of the Army Corps of Engineers, Hartzler examined ongoing and completed repairs to the levee systems between Huntsdale and Rocheport.
The group also took a look at the effectiveness of an intercept rearing complex, one of several chutes engineered along the river to divert and slow its current to provide spawning habitat for the pallid sturgeon.
“The Corps of Engineers has done an exceptional job with repairs,” she said about the levees during a news conference.
Hartzler said the corps already has contracts for repairs to 39 of the 64 levees that were breached. The contracts include some projects that have been completed and others in progress.
Meanwhile, Hartzler has advocated changes in the language of the federal 2020 Water Resources Development Act, which provides support for maintaining and repairing the Missouri River levee systems. A new version of the bill is made every other year. She wants more federal money for building ports and for further repairs and improvements to levees.
She also pushed for slowing the creation of chutes for pallid sturgeon, which she said cost about $3 million. She wants to back off on creating them until the impact is better studied and said holding off on adding chutes would save taxpayer money for other purposes, such as schools and health care.
The act as amended was approved unanimously by the Missouri House and awaits Senate consideration, Hartzler spokesperson Drew Cannon said.
Hartzler visited one of the chutes in question during her tour.
“We were able to go into one of the chutes that was constructed several years ago as an experiment to try to bring back the pallid sturgeon,” she said. “... it really isn’t working.”
Hartzler also said the chutes are hindering barge traffic because they divert water from the main channel and reduce its depth.
“We need to take steps to lessen the amount of water that’s going into the chutes and make sure that we can prioritize navigation in the main channel,” Hartzler said.
Hartzler is seeking reelection to a sixth two-year term in November’s general election.