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The Purposeful Flooding of America's Heartland

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Soapweed

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From The AMERICAN THINKER June 30, 2011

June 22, 2011
The Purposeful Flooding of America's Heartland

by Joe Herring

The Missouri River basin encompasses a vast region in the central and west-central portion of our country. This river, our nation's longest, collects the melt from Rocky Mountain snowpack and the runoff from our continents' upper plains before joining the Mississippi river above St. Louis some 2,300 miles later. It is a mighty river, and dangerous.

Some sixty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began the process of taming the Missouri by constructing a series of six dams. The idea was simple: massive dams at the top moderating flow to the smaller dams below, generating electricity while providing desperately needed control of the river's devastating floods.

The stable flow of water allowed for the construction of the concrete and earthen levees that protect more than 10 million people who reside and work within the river's reach. It allowed millions of acres of floodplain to become useful for farming and development. In fact, these uses were encouraged by our government, which took credit for the resulting economic boom. By nearly all measures, the project was a great success.

But after about thirty years of operation, as the environmentalist movement gained strength throughout the seventies and eighties, the Corps received a great deal of pressure to include some specific environmental concerns into their MWCM (Master Water Control Manual, the "bible" for the operation of the dam system). Preservation of habitat for at-risk bird and fish populations soon became a hot issue among the burgeoning environmental lobby. The pressure to satisfy the demands of these groups grew exponentially as politicians eagerly traded their common sense for "green" political support.

Things turned absurd from there. An idea to restore the nation's rivers to a natural (pre-dam) state swept through the environmental movement and their allies. Adherents enlisted the aid of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), asking for an updated "Biological Opinion" from the FWS that would make ecosystem restoration an "authorized purpose" of the dam system. The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.

Congress created a committee to advise the Corps on how best to balance these competing priorities. The Missouri River Recovery and Implementation Committee has seventy members. Only four represent interests other than environmentalism. The recommendations of the committee, as one might expect, have been somewhat less than evenhanded.

The Corps began to utilize the dam system to mimic the previous flow cycles of the original river, holding back large amounts of water upstream during the winter and early spring in order to release them rapidly as a "spring pulse." The water flows would then be restricted to facilitate a summer drawdown of stream levels. This new policy was highly disruptive to barge traffic and caused frequent localized flooding, but a multi-year drought masked the full impact of the dangerous risks the Corps was taking.

This year, despite more than double the usual amount of mountain and high plains snowpack (and the ever-present risk of strong spring storms), the true believers in the Corps have persisted in following the revised MWCM, recklessly endangering millions of residents downstream.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt agrees, calling the management plan "flawed" and "poorly thought out." Sen. Blunt characterized the current flooding as "entirely preventable" and told reporters that he intends to force changes to the plan.

Perhaps tellingly, not everyone feels the same apprehension toward the imminent disaster.

Greg Pavelka, a wildlife biologist with the Corps of Engineers in Yankton, SD, told the Seattle Times that this event will leave the river in a "much more natural state than it has seen in decades," describing the epic flooding as a "prolonged headache for small towns and farmers along its path, but a boon for endangered species." He went on to say, "The former function of the river is being restored in this one-year event. In the short term, it could be detrimental, but in the long term it could be very beneficial."

At the time of this writing, the Corps is scrambling for political cover, repeatedly denying that it had any advance warning of the potential for this catastrophe. The official word is that everything was just fine until unexpectedly heavy spring rains pushed the system past the tipping point.

On February 3, 2011, a series of e-mails from Ft. Pierre SD Director of Public Works Brad Lawrence sounded the alarm loud and clear. In correspondence to the headquarters of the American Water Works Association in Washington, D.C., Lawrence warned that "the Corps of Engineers has failed thus far to evacuate enough water from the main stem reservoirs to meet normal runoff conditions. This year's runoff will be anything but normal."

In the same e-mail, he describes the consequences of the Corps failure to act as a "flood of biblical proportions." His e-mails were forwarded from Washington, D.C. to state emergency response coordinators nationwide. The Corps headquarters in Omaha, NE which is responsible for the Missouri river system, claims they heard no such warning from Lawrence or anyone else. Considering the wide distribution of this correspondence, and the likely reactions from officials in endangered states, their denials strain credulity.

Whether warned or not, the fact remains that had the Corps been true to its original mission of flood control, the dams would not have been full in preparation for a "spring pulse." The dams could further have easily handled the additional runoff without the need to inundate a sizeable chunk of nine states. The Corps admits in the MWCM that they deliberately embrace this risk each year in order to maximize their re-ordered priorities.

MWCM (Sec 7-07.2.6):

Releases at higher-than-normal rates early in the season that cannot be supported by runoff forecasting techniques is inconsistent with all System purposes other than flood control. All of the other authorized purposes depend upon the accumulation of water in the System rather than the availability of vacant storage space. [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps the environmentalists of the Corps grew tired of waiting decades to realize their dream of a "restored Missouri River." Perhaps these elements heard the warnings and saw in them an opportunity to force an immediate re-naturalization of the river via epic flood. At present, that is impossible to know, but to needlessly imperil the property, businesses, and lives of millions of people constitutes criminal negligence. Given the statements of Corps personnel, and the clear evidence of their mismanagement, the possibility that there is specific intent behind their failure to act must be investigated without delay.

In recent decades, many universities have steeped their Natural Sciences curriculum in the green tea of earth-activism, producing radically eco-centric graduates who naturally seek positions with the government agencies where they can best implement their theories. Today, many of these men and women have risen high in their fields, hiring fellow travelers to fill subordinate positions and creating a powerful echo chamber of radical environmentalist theory.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a victim/tool of the above-described process. The horrifying consequence is water rushing from the dams on the Missouri twice as fast as the highest previous releases on record. Floodgates that have not been opened in more than fifty years are in full operation, discharging water at a rate of 150,000 cubic feet per second toward millions of Americans downstream.

This is a mind-boggling rate of release. Consider that 150,000 cubic feet of water would fill a football field instantly to a depth of four feet. This amount of water, being released every second, will continue unabated for the next several months. The levees that protect the cities and towns downstream were constructed to handle the flow rates promised at the time of the dam's construction. None of these levees have ever been tested at these levels, yet they must hold back millions of acre-feet of floodwater for the entire summer without failing. In the flooding of 1993, more than a thousand levees failed. This year's event will be many orders of magnitude greater.

There are many well-publicized examples of absurd obeisance to the demands of radical environmentalists resulting in great economic harm. The Great Missouri River Flood of 2011 is shaping up to be another -- only this time, the price will likely be paid in lives lost as well as treasure. Ayn Rand said, "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

We need to begin the investigations immediately. It seems that it is sanity, and not the river, that needs to be restored.

The author writes from Omaha, NE and may be reached at [email protected]
 

MO_cows

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Good piece! I wondered if the Corps had gone to sleep at the wheel when they waited so long to start releasing water, in light of the heavy snowpack up north. They have really created a mess. In our area, the Fishing River is flooding. It is a tributary of the Mo. and with the Mo. so high, it is backing up instead of flowing into it. Some beautiful crops are going under.

I will try to take pictures and post them, when you go near the Missouri it is so high and running so fast it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up to think about the force of that water.
 
A

Anonymous

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Whether warned or not, the fact remains that had the Corps been true to its original mission of flood control, the dams would not have been full in preparation for a "spring pulse." The dams could further have easily handled the additional runoff without the need to inundate a sizeable chunk of nine states. The Corps admits in the MWCM that they deliberately embrace this risk each year in order to maximize their re-ordered priorities.

Comical piece of BULLPUCKEY in many ways.....The Dams original mission is/was electrical generation, flood control, river transport-- and recreation has taken a big economic step in the last few years...Fort Peck Reservoir has been almost droughted out for years....Downstream Mississippi River barge folks have even filed suit for "their share" of the water rights when they tried to hold it back for electrical generation and recreation- and won...
From the Fort Peck website:

Fort Peck Lake is the 5th-largest man-made reservoir in the United States. The lake is 134 miles long, has 1520 miles of shoreline, and has a maximum depth of 220 feet. Water is stored at Fort Peck Lake for the production of hydroelectric power. In addition, the water is managed for flood damage reduction, downstream navigation, fish and wildlife, recreation, irrigation, public water supply, and improved water quality.

BUT-- you- and the author apparently haven't been on the Missouri drainage to see the water that has came here... We had record snowfall on the Milk River drainage (110+ inchs)- and record snowfall in the mountains which created one record setting flood starting in April - followed by record rainfall for the spring (we have received almost 16 inches in the first 6 months in an area that averages 11 inches for the entire year) which created another Milk River/Montana drainage record flood of even greater proportions in June....Without the incredible rainfall- much of the downstream flooding would not have occurred...

The Milk- and Musselshell (both major contributaries to the Missouri) have had record flooding-- that flooded out hundreds of people-- and thousands of acres of cropland...

Soap-- How do you blame that on the Corps or the current or past politicians?

I know the folks downstream want to blame all their flooding on someone-- and like all good politicians or folks wanting to make political hay- some will- and all want to blame it to the political party they oppose--- but nobody (unless you are God) knew of the record rainfall that was going to come.....!!!!! Or what that would create.....

That Missouri Senator should be hung out to dry--because that is one of the states that sued the upstream states to make sure they had there water rights available for "navigation" to maintain their barge traffic... :roll:

If these Dams had been drained down to handle all the water we got- and then it didn't come everyone would scream because of NO electrical generation, irrigation, barge traffic, recreation and tourist economy, etc. etc...

Damed if you Do- and Damned if you Don't-- but some politician will certainly make hay/horsesh*t out of it....

We got hit again last night with .7 at the north place...4 Wheel drive time and water standing in the corrals with the creeks running bank full...

Taken from my deck looking north:


This is what some of these thousand of acres of top hay/crop land look like after 3 months of flood..



This was several 100 acres of the top Pioneer seed alfalfa in the whole country:



Another neighbors top producing alfalfa fields:



I have to agree with one thing the author seems to imply-- there needs to be a lot more dam/waterway infrastructure built to handle the flooding needs of some, so it can go to the areas totally lacking in water... I watched a show on TV the other day that showed that some major areas of the US-- Vegas/California/etc are running out of water-- and they suggested why some of the continual flood waters of the midwest couldn't be Dammed off- and then funneled/piped to those major growing metropolitan areas running out of water?
Sounds to me like a great undertaking--be a way to put a lot of the unemployed folks to work like the original building of these dams was in the 30's-- but it would take another Hoover/Roosevelt long term progressive thinking probably to do it.....And right now- with the partisan bickering none of that will happen...
 

floyd

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You think maybe they were waiting the high water further downstream to clear out before releasing MORE water into an a watershed already saturated?
 

BRG

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Living within a mile of the Missouri River, I see it all the time. I know last fall/summer it was really full. Then the mountains/eastern MT and western ND/SD kept getting ALOT of snow. It didn't take alot of brains to see the issue that would be coming in the spring of 2011. Nobody thought we would have the record amounts of rain that we had this spring. Then it happened. To me it was a problem waiting to come. If they would have let it down some over the winter(enough to handle extra moisture, but not to much to upset everyone, when they were seeing the amount of snow that was hitting the area, they could have saved some of the areas. But instead the areas had records snow, and then record rains on top of it and it all came down the river at once, and then they had to open up the gates that and let out alot of water, to much water, as it is and was coming in faster that the were letting out. A little common sense would go a long way to avoid disasters like this.
 

Soapweed

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Oldtimer said:
Comical piece of BULLPUCKEY in many ways.....The Dams original mission is/was electrical generation, flood control, river transport-- and recreation has taken a big economic step in the last few years...Fort Peck Reservoir has been almost droughted out for years....Downstream Mississippi River barge folks have even filed suit for "their share" of the water rights when they tried to hold it back for electrical generation and recreation- and won...
From the Fort Peck website:

BUT-- you- and the author apparently haven't been on the Missouri drainage to see the water that has came here... We had record snowfall on the Milk River drainage (110+ inchs)- and record snowfall in the mountains which created one record setting flood starting in April - followed by record rainfall for the spring (we have received almost 16 inches in the first 6 months in an area that averages 11 inches for the entire year) which created another Milk River/Montana drainage record flood of even greater proportions in June....Without the incredible rainfall- much of the downstream flooding would not have occurred...

The Milk- and Musselshell (both major contributaries to the Missouri) have had record flooding-- that flooded out hundreds of people-- and thousands of acres of cropland...

Soap-- How do you blame that on the Corps or the current or past politicians?

I know the folks downstream want to blame all their flooding on someone-- and like all good politicians or folks wanting to make political hay- some will- and all want to blame it to the political party they oppose--- but nobody (unless you are God) knew of the record rainfall that was going to come.....!!!!! Or what that would create.....

That Missouri Senator should be hung out to dry--because that is one of the states that sued the upstream states to make sure they had there water rights available for "navigation" to maintain their barge traffic... :roll:

If these Dams had been drained down to handle all the water we got- and then it didn't come everyone would scream because of NO electrical generation, irrigation, barge traffic, recreation and tourist economy, etc. etc...

Damed if you Do- and Damned if you Don't-- but some politician will certainly make hay/horsesh*t out of it....

We got hit again last night with .7 at the north place...4 Wheel drive time and water standing in the corrals with the creeks running bank full...

I have to agree with one thing the author seems to imply-- there needs to be a lot more dam/waterway infrastructure built to handle the flooding needs of some, so it can go to the areas totally lacking in water... I watched a show on TV the other day that showed that some major areas of the US-- Vegas/California/etc are running out of water-- and they suggested why some of the continual flood waters of the midwest couldn't be Dammed off- and then funneled/piped to those major growing metropolitan areas running out of water?

Sounds to me like a great undertaking--be a way to put a lot of the unemployed folks to work like the original building of these dams was in the 30's-- but it would take another Hoover/Roosevelt long term progressive thinking probably to do it.....And right now- with the partisan bickering none of that will happen...

It isn't me blaming anyone. I just posted the article as it was written, giving proper credit to the writer and the publication.

Oldtimer, anyone on Ranchers.net would have realized that you were getting a record amount of snow last winter and rain this spring. It was the "winter from hell" as you have stated more than once. If a mere reader of Ranchers.net knows that there is a massive amount of water to the north that will eventually come down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, you'd think the Army Corps of Engineers would realize at least that much themselves. Knowing this information, they could probably have planned a more orderly fashion to let the water go down the river.

It has been a very wet early part of the summer here also. We didn't get an undue amount of snow last winter, but caught a foot of snow during the middle of April (which probably gave us about an inch of moisture). The next three weeks were dry, and this area was desperately needing a rain. When it started raining, the pump was primed. Our guage has added up to right at 13 and a half inches, not counting the April snowstorm. Average is this country is about 17 inches per year, so we are quite a bit ahead of normal. The most recent rain came last night. There was 1.35 inches in the guage this morning, and it is still sprinkling out right now.

I am not personally "second guessing" any flood control done on the major rivers. A friend who did get flooded this spring sent me the article, and I merely posted it to get other's opinions on the subject. Thanks, Oldtimer, for weighing in. :wink:
 

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