U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to put a greater emphasis on flood control and give Iowans more of a voice in the decision-making process. In addition, after calling on the Corps to address shortcomings in their communications, Senator Ernst has received a response from the Corps outlining their pledge to improve communication and provide regular updates, starting this month, to levee sponsors and those in harm’s way throughout the duration of flood season.
“Iowans should have peace of mind knowing the Army Corps is not only hearing their needs, but prioritizing them. And while I’m glad to see the Corps pledge to take action to improve its communication with local levee sponsors there’s more work to be done. That’s why I’m fighting to ensure the Corps puts flood control and Iowa families and communities first and gives our farmers and local experts a seat at the table when it comes to their decision-making,” said Senator Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The Senator is cosponsoring two bills to prioritize Iowa communities in the eyes of the Corps—one that would make flood control the top priority for the Corps’ management of the Missouri River; and another to create a civilian advisory council to give Iowans a direct say in the Corps’ decision-making.
- The Missouri River Flood Control Prioritization Act would make flood control the number one priority in the Corps’ master manual and would eliminate “fish and wildlife” as an authorized purpose. It requires the Corps to make those updates to the manual within 90 days of the bill becoming law. The master manual, which dictates the Corps’ management of the Missouri River, includes 8 congressionally authorized purposes: flood control, river navigation, hydroelectric power, irrigation, water supply, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife.
- The Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control Civilian Advisory Council Act would create a new civilian advisory council with two members from each state along the Missouri River, including Iowa, to play a part in advising the Corps on river management. The bill mandates representatives from the agricultural industry must be included on the council.
In their written response to Senator Ernst, the Corps pledged that starting this month it will be conducting weekly calls with local levee sponsors that will continue through the 2019 flood season. The Corps will provide important information on snowpack levels, available flood control storage in the Missouri River System, cubic feet per second (cfs) release rates at the system’s dams, flow rates in key tributaries such as the Niobrara, Nishnabotna, and Platte rivers, National Weather Service (NWS) precipitation forecasts, and the NWS spring flood outlook.