As flooding along the Missouri continues to affect thousands of citizens in a seven state region, a bipartisan group of 14 U.S. Senators has joined together to form the Missouri River Working Group to reevaluate current Missouri River water management practices. Our working group recently held its first meeting, in which top officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were present to answer our questions. The inaugural meeting was very productive and a clear theme emerged from the start: Flood prevention must be a top priority.
While the Missouri River states have expressed varying priorities over the years, all of the members of the Working Group agree that the Corps' first and foremost priority must be the prevention of flooding, especially during wet weather cycles. The unity exhibited at our meeting was impressive and gave me reason to be hopeful that the current water management practices can and will be modified to avoid this disastrous flooding in the future.
During our meeting, I told the Corps officials present that we need to modify the parameters by which the exclusive flood control zone is determined. I am hopeful this problem will be addressed in both the near-term under the flexibility allowed to the Corps for its annual operating plan for the Missouri River, and in the long-term through changes to the Corps' Master Manual, their guiding flood control document.
The Working Group's next step is to follow up on the request I spearheaded to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to schedule a hearing examining the water management decisions that were made in the lead up to the recent historic flooding. I will continue to be engaged with my fellow Working Group members as we work to ensure that the Corps' priorities are aligned with the original intent of the Missouri River water management system.