Apr 21, 2021 7:00 PM

Repairs to Missouri River levees damaged by 2019 flood nearly complete

Posted Apr 21, 2021 7:00 PM
Northwest Missouri levee damaged during 2019 flood. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Northwest Missouri levee damaged during 2019 flood. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post

A bit of work remains to be completed, but it appears most of the Missouri River levee system destroyed by the 2019 flood has been restored.

Col. Mark Himes, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha office says the section it oversees from Gavins Point Dam down to Atchison County, Missouri has been restored and is ready should the Missouri River flood this spring.

“Thankfully, all the indications are we don’t need to worry about that this spring, but we’ve essentially restored everything back to full height,” Himes tells St. Joseph Post.

Commander of the Corps’ Kansas City office, Col. William Hannan, says protection in his district, which runs from Holt County all the way to St. Louis, has been restored to 91% protection.

“We’re really down to two levee systems, one in Holt County and one in northern Platte County, that won’t be finished until September, but still progressing really well on the levee rebuild; faster than we did after the 1993 flood and the 2011 flood,” Hannan tells St. Joseph Post.

Hannan says the Holt County levee has been particularly difficult to repair. He says a contract has been awarded and construction is ready to begin.

Hannan says 2019 posed problems not seen even in the major floods of 1993 or 2011. The 2019 flood kept the Missouri River above flood stage longer than any other flood.

“Being at a flood stage on the river, the high water, we didn’t drop below flood stage until 279 days after that first day that we entered the flood,” according to Hannan. “So, I had my emergency management center activated for that whole time. It was the longest activation in the district’s history.”

Hannan is hopeful a study commissioned by the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa will help the Corps improve flood protection along the Missouri River. He says the study will also advise Congress on changes needed in federal regulations to improve flood protection.

Hannan points out, at present, federal law prohibits the Corps from making improvements to a flood-damaged levee.

“So we can come up with policy recommendations and how can we adjust that law to allow us to move faster and really be more efficient with our funding to improve protection, not just bring protection back to where it stood before.,” Hannan says.

Hannan says the key to flood protection along the Missouri River is how it works for the local community.