Note to politicians: Be careful what you ask for.
Senators from Nebraska, Iowa and five other Missouri River states wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday requesting an outline of its plans for managing the Missouri next year and advising the corps that it must apply lessons from this year's devastating flooding.
The corps isn't waiting.
On Monday, the corps announced it will extend current higher-volume releases from Gavins Point Dam by three days, which, as a consequence, will extend the worst of the summer's flooding by a similar time.
The goal is to avoid falling behind this winter or next spring, said Jody Farhat, who manages releases from the upstream reservoirs for the corps.
The senators' letter formalized the information they have requested from the corps, and it outlines what the senators want to see from the agency.
In addition to asking for next year's plans, the senators asked the corps what authority it needs to make changes to its annual operating plan for the river and whether it might need any additional authority to do so.
"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 corps, which oversees the reservoirs.
The corps has been sharply criticized its management of the Missouri River. Levees were compromised in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri after heavy spring rains and later-than-usual snowmelt.
"Absolutely we have been applying the lessons we've learned throughout this summer," McMahon said. He pointed to the decision Monday to continue with the high releases as an example.
Another lesson learned, he said, is that "you can never communicate enough."
Farhat said July continued the trend of heavy rainfall, and the forecast for August indicates higher-than-normal runoff.
As a result, the corps won't step down from 150,000 cubic feet per second water releases until Aug. 18 — three days later than planned.
Farhat estimated that the corps can eliminate about 900,000 acre feet of water over those three days. The corps wants to make sure it is able to reach its fall goal of 40,000 cfs from Gavins Point and its winter goal of 20,000 cfs.
She doesn't anticipate an additional extension of the higher-volume releases this month. The corps will re-evaluate its needs at the end of August, she said.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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