For the second time this month, governors from three states voiced their desire to be more involved in managing the Missouri River.
The group — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who were joined this time by Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers — met with the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday to hear updates and talk about rebuilding efforts. They spoke to a gaggle of reporters after the meeting.
Ricketts said the four states are committed to working with the corps to examine basin and levee management practices going forward. He said the group is looking at recommendations that, in the past, perhaps didn’t have enough “political will” behind them to succeed.
“You’ve got the commitment here from all four states to be able to work together to really bring a different ... urgency and different will to getting something done that maybe hasn’t been done in the past,” Ricketts said in the lobby of the Council Bluffs Police Department headquarters, where the meeting was held.
Parson suggested the inclusion of an outside agency in addition to the corps to help oversee Missouri River management.
“We want a seat at the table to make sure, moving forward, (we’re involved in) how those issues are addressed,” he said.
Ricketts said the corps has been receptive to the states’ request to be more involved.
The most immediate concerns include plugging holes and repairing damaged levees.
Reynolds, noting that the corps doesn’t have the funding to complete long-term rebuilding, called on Congress to secure necessary funds.
Ricketts said that after short-term problems are addressed, the corps expects to look at Missouri River chokepoints — narrow areas where water backed up during flooding — to determine possible alterations.
The long-term work, Ricketts said, will include reassessing how the river is managed, including basin capacities and the strength and height of levees.
“If you build a levee higher, that gives you more capacity,” he said.
Reynolds said two of Iowa’s four major levee breaches are expected to be filled by the end of July, a process that was initially expected to take a year.
“We’re optimistic about the process and the progress that they’re making,” she said. “We still have a long recovery and road ahead.”
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