PERCIVAL, Iowa — There is still a lot of anger out there. That and fear of repeat flooding next spring are what U.S. Rep. Steve King heard about Friday as he toured Fremont County homes destroyed by summer flooding.
The 5th District Republican met with residents in Hamburg in the morning, then held a town hall meeting at the Percival Community Church.
People continually expressed concern that if levees are not rebuilt before the spring 2012 runoff season, their homes will again be in danger from flooding.
King said the first thing that needs to be done is to make sure the six-dam system on the Missouri River north of Iowa can hold record runoff. King has sponsored legislation that would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to revise the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Master Water Control Manual to ensure that enough flood control storage is available to hold the record runoff the area experienced this year.
"From St. Louis to North Dakota, everyone thinks that is the right thing to do," King said. "Montana does not want to let the water run down the river because they want more fishing and recreation; that has always been the battle."
There is debate over how much lower reservoirs would have to be to have more water storage, but King said it would be as little as 1.5 feet.
"If environmentalists and recreationists can't give up 1½ feet of water to prevent flooding down here, I've got no use for them," he said.
Fixing the damaged levee system is the second part of the solution, although King acknowledged that funding repairs could be difficult.
King said he would not vote for an $800 billion appropriations bill that is not fiscally responsible, even if it contains funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"That funding would be one-quarter of 1 percent of the bill," he said. "We need to find budget offsets. We have zero budget discipline."
Still, King assured the southwest Iowa residents that the federal government would live up to its responsibility and repair the levees. King couldn't say when that would happen, but he said he doesn't know that it can be done before winter sets in.
King said $10 million has been devoted to repairs at three breaches in the levee in Fremont County. But Kim Thomas, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers' emergency management office in Omaha, said those patches would reach only the 25-year flood level, not the 100- or 500-year flood heights.
Thomas estimated that getting the levee back to the pre-2011 flood heights would cost $120 million around Fremont County.
Overall, the Omaha district faces between $300 million and $400 million in levee repairs, King said.
"That doesn't count the lost farmland, homes and businesses; there is a lot of emergency work to do," he said. "I'm re-energized to go back to Washington and find solutions."