Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Missouri River Relief plans "learning festival" for county students in Hermann in October

This article was originally published in the Gasconade County Republican on Wednesday, August 31. 

By Dave Marner
Plans for a “learning festival” based along, and on the Missouri River, for county high school and middle school students are being finalized as Missouri River Relief prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary of cleaning the “Big Muddy.”

Students from Owensville High School, Owensville Middle School, the Hermann school district, and St. George, have been invited to attend separate day-long programs based on shore and on the Living Lands and Waters garbage barge River Relief will be using as the group travels down river from Jefferson City to St. Charles during October. Missouri River Relief is a Missouri Stream Team member based in Columbia, Mo., which has conducted large-scale cleanups from Yankton, S.D, to the mouth of the Missouri where it meets the Mississippi River. Students and faculty chaperones will have the chance to participate in several stations of land-based educational programs presented by professionals from the various agencies assisting River Relief staff.

Staff from the Gasconade and Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Farm Service Agency are scheduled to be participating in the program.

With river levels expected to drop over the next month, River Relief is also planning to have water-based learning stations which could include instruction on aquatics, biology, and water quality issues.

School administrators discussed curriculum issues with Barrow and the agency representatives planning to participate in an effort to design learning experiences which will match up with each school’s educational programs.

“This is exciting,” said Barrow who was making his second planning trip to Owensville for the project. He also met last Thursday with school officials in Hermann. “I’m really excited.”

“Our teachers are really looking forward to this,” said Kurt Keller, principal at OHS.

Part of the experience will include the chance for students to help clean a section of the river’s shoreline under the supervision of trained MRR personnel. That aspect of the experience was something Teresa Ragan, principal at OMS, would strongly support. “Service learning gives something back to the community,” said Ragan.

OHS students are scheduled to attend the festival on Tuesday, Oct. 4, OMS attends Wednesday, Oct. 5, and Hermann students are invited on Thursday, Oct. 6.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Corps releases flood drawdown schedule for fall

Friday morning, July 29, 2011, the Corps of Engineers Omaha District released its plan for reservoir releases through the fall. Links to full information and the text of their press releases are below.

In a nutshell, releases from Gavin's Point Dam will drop to 150,000 cfs by Monday, then hold there through mid-August. They say this is needed to provide maximum evacuation of flood storage before the drawdown. Starting in mid-August, releases will drop 5,000 cfs per day, reaching a goal of 90,000 by August 27. Releases will hold there for approximately two weeks for the Corps to check for damage in dam structures and levees. The stepped drawdown is designed to allow floodwaters to drain slowly from the floodplain, causing less damage to levees as it exits. In addition, the goal is that as waters slowly drop, levees will be able to begin drying as hydrologic pressure from the river is released, causing less slumping.

Releases at Garrison and Oahe are scheduled to reach 85,000 cfs by August17 & 24 respectively, allowing the river to enter its banks again at Bismarck and Pierre.

In mid-September, releases will step down to a goal of 40,000 cfs by October 1. Releases will hold here and eventually will be drawn down to 20,000 cfs. by Dec. 1. Here's a graph of the Gavin's Plan, followed by the plan for upstream reservoirs.


(graphs supplied by US Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District)

This plan is designed to have the reservoirs out of the exclusive pool as soon as possible and begin getting citizens back into their homes and businesses to begin recovery as soon as possible. 

The Corps plans do not involve providing for additional flood storage space next year. As Gen. McMahon explains in the second release reprinted below, the decision was made to time releases to both evacuate the exclusive flood control storage as soon as possible, then begin lowering levels to allow residents, farmers and communities the most time before winter to rebuild, clean up and assess damages.

Links on 2011 Floodwater Evacuation Plan
Here are the two press releases reprinted from today's announcement. First is the general press release, followed by a more detailed explanation from Brig. Gen. John McMahon.

U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
NEWS RELEASE
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Northwestern Division, 1616 Capitol Ave., Omaha, Neb. 68102
For Immediate Release: July 29, 2011


Corps announces strategy for evacuating floodwaters
Omaha, Neb. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces its strategy for evacuating floodwaters from its six mainstem dams along the Missouri River today.

“This plan allows the Corps to evacuate flood water from the reservoir system in a responsible way to prepare for the 2012 runoff season, while reducing the risk of further damages and gets affected homeowners, farmers and businesses back on their properties to begin repair and recovery as quickly as possible,” said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, Northwestern Division commander.

The Corps will execute a gradual drawdown, in which releases out of Gavins Point Dam, the southernmost reservoir in the system, will decrease to 150,000 cubic feet per second on Aug. 1 and will remain at that rate until approximately Aug. 16 when they will be stepped down 5,000 cfs daily until reaching 90,000 cfs around Aug. 27. The Gavins Point Dam releases will stay at 90,000 cfs for approximately 2 weeks and then will drop 5,000 cfs every two days, until reaching 40,000 cfs, which is slightly above the typical fall release rate, on or about Sept. 30.

Releases from Garrison and Oahe dams are scheduled to reach 85,000 cfs on Aug. 17 and 24, respectively. This is the estimated release to get the water back within the river channel and to begin floodplain drainage along the river at Bismarck, N.D. and Pierre, S.D.

This plan provides the opportunity for the Corps to begin inspection and repair of levees and other critical infrastructure and ensures adequate storage for the 2012 runoff season.

For the corresponding detailed three week release forecast for the other mainstem dams, go to: http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/reports/twout.html.

“We meticulously reviewed each of eight drawdown options with technical experts and leadership within the Northwestern Division, Omaha and Kansas City Districts,” said Jody Farhat, chief of Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “This release schedule puts us in the best position to drawdown the water as quickly and as responsibly as possible, while allowing us time to inspect, assess and repair damages.”
In making the decision, the Corps considered criteria such as the potential impacts to homes, farms and businesses within the floodplain, weather forecasts through 2012, acceptable release rate reductions from the dams, water levels on the temporary and downstream levees, getting the reservoirs out of the exclusive flood control zones, impacts to other critical infrastructure (tributary reservoirs, roads, facilities, etc.) and whether to increase the amount of flood control storage for the 2012 runoff season.

The current 2012 weather forecast predicts a 66.6 percent chance of normal or below normal precipitation, and a 33.3 percent chance of wetter than normal conditions. However, fall 2011 is forecasted to be wetter than normal; both of these predications contributed to the drawdown decision. Further consideration was given to the low probability of the re-occurrence of this 2011 500-year event again in 2012.

Holding releases from Gavins Point steady at 150,000 cfs starting through mid-August will enable Fort Peck, Garrison and Oahe Dams to move out of exclusive flood control storage around Aug. 6 while Fort Randall will reach this zone around Aug. 12. This will provide operational flexibility for the Corps to respond if significant rainfall events occur.

The Gavins Point two-week release pause at 90,000 cfs will allow for preliminary inspection and assessment of infrastructure and levees before the final drawdown. Eventually, this steady drawdown from the reservoirs, and respective floodplains, will bring water levels low enough for contractors (weather and funding permitting) to begin repairs as early as Dec. 1.

“It’s important that we drawdown these releases with full consideration of the many risks that remain,” said Brig. Gen. McMahon. “A rapid drawdown with high flows could cause extensive bank erosion and slumping in the levees, while too slow of a drawdown could leave high water on temporary and permanent levees, dams and other critical infrastructure, further increasing risks for overtoppings and breaches.” We assess these risks to be unacceptable in the context of the weather forecast and the low probability of re-occurrence.

“The goal is to evacuate these historic and unprecedented floodwaters responsibly and bring the entire system back to its full annual flood control capacity of 16.3 million acre feet by March 1, which is generally the start of the spring 2012 runoff season,” said Farhat. This will put the flood control pool to a system storage level of 56.8 million acre feet. Prior to the Flood of 2011, and since 1881, this amount has been adequate to capture spring runoff and manage water flow through the system.

“We have already seen water inflows to the system decline and empty system flood control space increase in the past three weeks” said Brig. Gen. McMahon. “We are confident that this plan will best prepare us for the 2012 runoff season.”

All dates provided above are best approximations, based on current forecast conditions and the best available information at the time. Adjustments to the release schedule may be necessary if conditions change. View daily and forecasted reservoir and river information on the Water Management section of the Northwestern Division homepage at: http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc.

U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
NEWS RELEASE
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Northwestern Division, 1616 Capitol Ave., Omaha, Neb. 68102
For Immediate Release: July 29, 2011


Corps’ drawdown plan aims to be ready for 2012 runoff

- Brig. Gen. John McMahon, Commander Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

After much deliberation with my team, I have selected a plan for responsibly evacuating flood waters from the Missouri River Mainstem System through the remainder of 2011. This risk-based decision was not made lightly. We must get the water back into the river banks and out of the floodplain so that people can return to their homes, farms and businesses as soon as possible.

The release schedule selected prepares the basin to be ready for the 2012 runoff season. Our number priority, as always, is public safety. This drawdown schedule is the safest option to evacuate floodwaters from the reservoirs in a timely manner, while simultaneously decreasing the risk to temporary and permanent levees, our six mainstem dams and other critical infrastructure.

We’ve opted to use a gradual drawdown approach. This will provide us with the best chances of minimizing the amount of additional damage we might otherwise face if we attempted to draw down too quickly. The risks associated with too slow a drawdown would leave high water on temporary levees and permanent flood risk reduction structures longer than necessary, which increases our chances of overtopping and/or breaching levees. If we make too rapid a drawdown, we run risks to include potential damage to infrastructure, extensive bank erosion, and sloughing in the levees.

2011 will be the highest runoff season in the Corps’ 113 years of record keeping in the Missouri River Basin. The Mighty “Mo” has reminded us just how unpredictable she can be. This is why it’s so important for us to be prepared for the 2012 runoff season. In light of this year’s runoff, several of the drawdown alternatives considered whether more mainstem system flood control storage is necessary for the 2012 runoff season. None of the options before us could ever eliminate all flood risk. We thoroughly evaluated options of adding an additional 1.3 million acre-feet and 3.6 million acre-feet to the existing 16.3 MAF of flood control storage in the system. These options and others have serious consequences to getting us ready for the 2012 runoff season.

First, the additional time it would take to evacuate any additional volume of water is precious time we don’t have before the onset of cold weather in the Basin. Second, there is unacceptable risk of breaching and/or overtopping additional levees, especially those protecting people and communities; this is due to the prolonged duration of increased releases to accommodate these additional volumes of water through the system. Third, neither the weather forecasts for the remainder of 2011 and for 2012, nor the probability of re-occurrence of this 2011 event in 2012 warrant such additional risk.

The mainstem system was designed based on the 1881 flood. That year, the basin experienced 40 million acre feet of runoff above Sioux City, Iowa, from March to July, the worst flood on record known to modern man. Hence, 16.3 million acre-feet of flood control storage was allocated in the system— which would have been the required amount of storage to manage the 1881 flood waters while keeping system releases at or below 100,000 cubic-feet-per-second. Since the construction of the mainstem system, that amount of storage has been sufficient to adequately handle every runoff season until this year. Runoff from March to July in 2011 is expected to total 49 million acre-feet, 20 percent higher than what the system was designed to manage.

The release schedule does not increase flood control storage prior to the 2012 runoff season. Increasing flood control storage before March 2012 would mean significantly higher releases for a longer period of time this fall. That would further increase the strain on temporary and permanent levees and other critical infrastructure. It would significantly limit our ability to inspect, assess and repair damages because water would be higher longer. Simply put, providing for more flood control storage would gravely jeopardize the basin’s ability to be ready for the 2012 runoff season.

Part of our analysis included weather forecasts through 2012. The forecast predicts a wetter than normal fall 2011. The forecast for a wet fall contributed to our drawdown release decision. Based on the gradual drawdown release schedule, our plan is to decrease releases at Gavins Point Dam to 40,000 cubic feet per second by the end of September. This would give the system the flexibility needed to store additional floodwaters if another significant rainfall event happens this year.

Our evaluation included the consideration of eight drawdown options with a thorough risk analysis of each. We took into account the impacts to homes, farms and businesses within the floodplain, temporary and permanent levees, our dams and other critical infrastructure. The review also took external factors, such as funding, weather and contractor availability, into account. Given our review and assessment of the associated risks, the release schedule we selected was the best option. The plan allows us the time we need to inspect, assess and repair damages. This drawdown schedule provides the best path for the basin to be ready for the 2012 runoff season.

There are limitations and obstacles we must consider as we prepare for the 2012 runoff season. We must quantify and obtain funding to initiate and complete the repairs. We must work closely with contractors to ensure the work is completed safely, on time and within budget. The majority of the work will have to be done during the harsh winter months. The release schedule puts us in a good position to get water levels low enough to begin those inspections and assessments and put contracts in place to begin work as early as 1 December.

We will have to prioritize our efforts based on an applicable set of criteria that puts protection of life and human safety first, followed by protection of key infrastructure and valuable cropland. Given the time constraints, we may not be able to repair everything in time for the 2012 runoff. Those decisions will not be easy.

Meanwhile, a full post-flood assessment will begin soon. The assessment will require us to answer many of the same questions you have been asking us. We will look at how we managed the dams and reservoirs from the winter of 2010 through the end of this flood fight. We will conduct a full-scale assessment to determine what, if anything, needs to change in our operating procedures. All of this will take time.

Our primary objective with this gradual drawdown schedule is to be ready for the 2012 runoff season. To do that, we must evacuate water from the reservoirs and the floodplain in a safe and responsible manner. We are 100 percent committed to this flood fight, and will remain vigilant throughout the coming months as we evacuate this water responsibly, get people back in their homes, farms and businesses, and begin the process of repairing the damage to get ready for 2012.
- Brig. Gen. John McMahon, Commander Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Corps emails released; drought eases flooding

For the thousands of people affected by this flood who have been wondering how the Corps of Engineers was dealing with water releases as snow piled up this spring, followed by massive rains in the upper basin, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader opened a window this week. Through a Freedom of Information request, the AL obtained a batch of Corps emails documenting the evolution of this flood. Check out the stories below giving context to this trove of information.

For communities, highway departments and levee districts trying to plan for a fall of repairs, this Friday will provide a guide to future river levels. The Corps is planning on releasing their dam release schedules through September on this Friday, July 29. As always, the forecasts will be subject to change depending on rainfall in the basin. The Corps is planning on reducing Gavin's Point Dam releases from 160,000 cfs to 150,000 from July 31 to August 2. 

Although pulses of rain in the Big Sioux River basin caused new flood crests from Sioux City to Kansas City, the whole lower basin has been spared from the worst case scenario by little to no rain in many parts of the basin. In some counties, farmers in the uplands are suffering the beginning of drought while bottomland farmers are monitoring their levees and constantly pumping out seepwater. At the same time, the continuous massive flows continue to test levees and flood prevention measures throughout the basin.


Argus-Leader series on Corps of Engineers emails
The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader obtained a block of emails from late winter/spring 2011 that give a window into the reservoir releases as weather deteriorated this spring. Includes an analysis story with links to raw emails as well as a timeline created from information in the emails.
Corps of Engineers Aerial Recon Photos
The Corps of Engineers Kansas City District has been releasing aerial recon photos in Google Earth format. If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can click the links below to download .kmz files that will open in Google Earth.
Aerial photos posted by Google
Click here to view aerial photos posted by Google of areas near Council Bluffs, IA. 

Editorial/Analysis
Leavenworth Times, July 26, 2011 - "The Missouri River Canal" by Matt Nowak - an idea to send Missouri River water to drier parts of the country. Nothing like a flood to make people forget the drought we just came out of.
St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 22, 2011 - "The Missouri River Compromise" by Robert Kelley Schneiders . You can also check out Schneiders' flood blog by clicking here.

Dakotas
Keloland TV, July 24, 2011 - "No Flood Assistance from FEMA" for individual homeowners.
Yankton Press-Dakotan, July 26, 2011 - "Corps Ready to Reveal Long-term Water Plans" - The Corps will announce release schedule through Sept. on Friday, July 28.
Bismarck Tribune, July 26, 2011 - "Gov. Dalrymple says Corps must give answers" 
Pierre Capital Journal, July 27, 2011 - "State sets up flood camage call center" - in an attempt to appeal FEMA's decision to withhold assistance for individual homeowners, the state is attempting to collect more information on flood damage to present to FEMA. 

Nebraska/Iowa
KTIV Channel 4 - July 27, 2011 - "Missouri River bed drops 6-8 feet" 
Omaha World-Herald, July 25, 2011 - "River dropping after second crest"
Omaha World-Herald, July 27, 2011 - "Plans laid for I-29 reopening" - Waters still have a lot of receding to do, and damage to many areas is unknown, but plans are being made for action after waters drop.
Omaha World-Herald, July 22, 2011 - "Below Flood stage by September?"
WOWT-channel 6, July 24, 2011 - "Aerial Tour of flooding"
WOWT-channel 6, July 25, 2011 - "River Pests out in force" 
Businessweek, July 27, 2011 - "Nebraska nuclear plant's flood recovery being planned" 

Kansas/Missouri 
FOX Channel 4 - July 26, 2011 - "Flooding still threatens Holt County levees"
St. Joseph News-Press, July 27, 2011 - "Casino may not reopen until October"
St. Joseph News-Press, July 24, 2011 - "Trials and tribulations of a long summer" 
St. Joseph News-Press, July 25, 2011 - "Flood insurance policies lead to frustration" 
Columbia Missourian, July 23, 2011 - "Missouri River flooding hurts barge industry"
KSU Collegian, July 24, 2011 - "Kansas River race fills void after Missouri River flooding" 
Columbia Tribune, July 24, 2011 - "Nixon says state ready to help Wooldridge" 
Columbia Tribune, July 24, 2011 - "Corps faces a battle over land near Wilton"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Long term flood continues to reveal damages

The Omaha World Herald today says..."50 days of flooding and counting". And, although the Corps will be lowering releases from Gavin's Point Dam from 160 kcfs to 150 kcfs at the end of July, baseline levels will remain high at least through mid-August. Latest Corps predictions show 150kcfs releases continuing at least until August 12. The Corps says that because of water draining from adjacent floodplains, there will be no noticeable drop even with this reduction in releases.

Relatively dry weather in the lower basin, with most rain events being sporadic and scattered has meant that levels have retreated from their highs but remain fairly level. However, rain in the Big Sioux River watershed pushed levels to a probable record in Sioux City today. The focus for most flood fighting has been shoring up soggy levees, attacking sand boils, pumping seepage from behind protected areas and basic pump maintenance. Sandbags continue to be filled in many areas, applied to new trouble spots.

Confusion with flood insurance has led to some new legislation changing some of FEMA's rules and the Corps and FEMA have begun collecting flood damage claims. The process will prove to be long and frustration for the many people damaged in the flood. Many counties affected have not received federal major disaster declaration from the President.

As flooding continues, inundated houses have been collapsing, new channels appear to be forming, mold is spreading and mosquitoes have been relentless. The oppressive heat has made all flood fighting more dangerous and exhausting. Some residents have just recently been able to view their flooded homes in rural areas shut down from access, and have been shocked at the damage. The Decatur bridge is experiencing undermining of its approach ramps and highways still under water have an undetermined amount of erosion and saturation damage. The Corps continues to check their dams, release tunnels and spillways for erosive damage. They continue to assure that dams are operating as designed.

Officials worry that the good news of drawdowns by the Corps might catch people off guard if there is rain later. Unlike many flood events, there is no real predicted "crest". Additional rain will continue to cause spikes in river levels that will need to be watched. As many of the stories below reveal, people and businesses continue to suffer, and are still unable to know just how much they've been effected by this prolonged flood.

Here's some links to news stories published on the web about how communities are coping with the flood.

Aerial Photography
Opinion/Analysis
While the formation of a "Missouri River Working Group" at the federal representative level suggests a "new spirit of cooperation", the ghosts of Missouri River issues past continue to lurk. Here's a couple of opposing opinions on that:
Corps of Engineers begins claims process
The Corps has opened two different processes for levee districts or individuals filing either claims on damages to property or to request assistance in levee rehabilitation. Here's a couple links
Wyoming/Montana
Billings Gazette - July 21, 2011 - "Buffalo Bill Reservoir Fills" 
Billings Gazette - July 10, 2011 - "Hell & High Water - Fort Peck Marina owner battered by flooding" 

Dakotas
Bismarck Tribune - July 21, 2011 - "Bismarck asks residents to limit water use" Sediment both suspended in the water and piling up at the water plant intake has lowered the water plant capacity. 
Bismarck Tribune - July 20, 2011  - "Flood victim turns heartbreak into poetry" With great video as well.
Bismarck Tribune - July 19, 2011 - "Corps discusses this year's releases, next year's plans" 
& "Regulatory tunnels holding up at Garrison Dam" 
Bismarck Tribune - July 15, 2011 - "Oil spill hits the Missouri River south of Williston"
CNN - July 12, 2011 - "How long will Missouri mega-flood endure"


Nebraska/Iowa
KCAU - TV9 - July 19, 2011 - "WinnaVegas Casino to reopen thanks to amphibious duck boats"
& "Dam Debris Piling Up"
Omaha World-Herald - July 21, 2011 - "50 days of flooding and counting"
Omaha World- Herald - July 19, 2011 - "Fighting flood is a daily battle" 
Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise (Blair/Fort Calhoun Area) - "Nobody told us it was going to be this bad" & "Glimpse of Damage from Flooding" & "Still a lot of confusion about flood insurance" & "Disaster plea includes individual assistance" & "Farmers play waiting game with flood"
WOWT Channel 6, Omaha - July 14, 2011 - "What will be left when the flood recedes?"
Sioux City Journal - July 14, 2011 - "Conditions improve at Nebraska nuclear plants"
Radio Iowa - July 21, 2011 - "Missouri River trouble coalition proposal gaining momentum" An effort to bring states together to address Missouri River management
KMEG 14 - July 20, 2011 - "Dealing with mold after the water recedes"
KCAU - July 13, 2011 - "Social Media Helps people stay current on flood information" 
Omaha World-Herald - July 12, 2011 - "Flood forces creative commuting" 
Omaha World-Herald - July 12, 2011 - House OK's flood insurance bill"

Missouri/Kansas
Maryville Daily Forum - July 21, 2011 - "Holt County Organizing Flood Claims Effort" 
St. Joseph News-Press, July 20, 2011 - "Up close it's pretty devastating - Officials must wait to begin flood cleanup"
Kansas City Star, July 12, 2011 - "Farmland in Carroll County covered with floodwaters" 
Missouri National Guard Blog - July 12, 2011 - "Guardsmen rescue family from flooding home"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - July 12, 2011 - "McCaskill, Blunt say Missouri River summit aims to get beyond old battles"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - July 13, 2011 - "Federal Flood Insurance confuses many along Missouri River basin"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Updated forecast on Gavin's releases - river now closed upstream of Glasgow

Two little pieces of just released news, and some more details on levees and the threat to US65:

1. The Corps has released more details on their forecast for Gavin's Point releases. On July 30, releases will be reduced from 160,000 cfs to 155,000. On August 1, they will be reduced to 150,000. Heavy rains could still affect this forecast.

2. The Coast Guard has extended the closure of the Missouri River to all traffic from the Gavin's Point Dam to the Glasgow bridge at river mile 226.3.

3. Snowpack continues to melt. Here's the latest: The snow above Fort Peck peaked at 141% of normal and is now down to 6% of normal.  The snow in the reach between Fort Peck and Garrison (primarily the Yellowstone basin) peaked at 136% and is now down to 4%. The snow in the North Plate basin pecked at 150% of Normal and is currently down to less than 10% and the snow pack in the South Platte Basin peaked at 150% of Normal and the melting in this reach is complete.

4. From Tom Waters of the Missouri Levee & Drainage District Assoc.: The Root Levee breached early this morning.  This levee is located in Southern Carroll County in Missouri.  The breach is 250-33 feet long.  The levee is part of a system of levees, which includes the following levees:  Wakenda Levee, Sambo Slough Levee, and the Farmers Levee.  Combined this system protects around 22,000 acres and US Highway 65 south of Carrollton, Missouri.

Columbia Tribune: River Advocates Hatch Big Cleanup Plan

Originally published on July 2, 2011 in the Columbia Daily Tribune
Click here for original link. 
By Brennan David

Today was supposed to be the day when paddlers raced south to the state capital for a fundraiser supporting a Missouri River cleanup. Instead, the river relief group now is making plans to clear the banks with a trash barge after the flooding, which resulted in the race’s postponement, recedes.

Missouri River Relief plans to use the trash barge this fall in its effort to clean up tons of trash to be left behind by summer flooding. The not-for-profit organization is working to secure a barge that would store trash for volunteers as they move downriver from Kansas City to St. Louis. The September and October cleanup would be the largest endeavor yet for the 10-year-old organization, which works to connect people with the river through cleanup and education events.

“I’m optimistic floodwaters will recede in time for the cleanup,” program manager Steve Schnarr said. “But September is a long time from now.”

Missouri River Communities Adjust to the "New Normal": High Water, Soggy Levees and Jitters with Each Rain

blogmaster's note: It's been over a week since I published a compilation of links here. I apologize for the lull. -steve

 At most gages on the river, except a few just downstream of Kansas City, river levels are dropping or remaining steady. Flood fighting continues at many locations along the river, and attention in many areas is shifting to watching soggy levees and keeping an eye on the weather forecast. Unlike many flood events, a "crest" in the river doesn't mean that a particular location is out of danger from this flood. Consistent or widespread rain can still cause local or downstream river rises while the peak flows continue from the dams. The Corps continues to say that releases from Gavin's Point Dam will remain at 160,000 cfs "well into August". Any heavy rain events in the upper basin could change this.

According to the Missouri Levee & Drainage Improvement Association, all non-federal primary levees north of Kansas City are overtopped or breached. A major levee in Carroll County, MO, downstream of Kansas City, which protects over ten thousand acres of farmland, is overtopping and residents are fighting the river with massive sandbags (click here for an map of the levee system). The "crest" here has broken the record set in 1993.

MODOT is watching US 65 in Carroll County very closely.  Levee problems in that area may eventually close this highway and the bridge between Carrollton and Waverly.  Current US 65 has one lane open.  9,000 feet of large sand bags have been placed along the highway to try to keep it open. 

Politicians from all affected states are beginning their jockeying to protect their perceived interests as some attention shifts to re-evaluating the management of the river even as the flood continues. While journalists and other stakeholders seem to be looking for a fresh perspective, several politicians seem to be lining up along the familiar upper vs. lower state lines. See articles below for some of the analysis from a variety of newspaper and political sources.

Here's a compilation of recent links regarding the continued Missouri River flood.

News Sources
(see previous posts for more excellent links to facebook pages and news feeds on the ongoing flood)
MightyMoRiver Gazette - a newspaper style collection of flood news feeds

Newspaper Special Sections
Many major papers along the river have created landing pages for the latest on local flood news, photos and videos. Here's a few:
    Flood Science
    Omaha World-Herald, July 11, 2011 - "USGS notes flood's quirks"
    Columbia Tribune, July5, 2011 - "Scientist Questions Flood Benefits of Public Land Along Missouri River" USGS fluvial geomorphologist Robb Jacobson leads study on flood retention potential of public lands in the floodplain.
    Associated Press, July 9, 2011 - "Experts Expect More Missouri River Levee Failures"

    Aerial Photography & Video
    Editorial Analysis and Perspectives
    St. Louis Beacon, July 11, 2011 - "Flood expert Galloway: Missouri River needs comprehensive plan" Former Army Brigadier General Gerald Galloway again brings up ideas promoted in a report he helped write post-1993 flood on reducing flood risk. Click here to download 1994 report, "Sharing the Challenge".
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 2011 - "One River, One Problem" - a series of editorials and discussions on Missouri River management. The series was inspired by a P-D editorial with that title written in 1944 (the year of the Flood Control Act passed by Congress that implemented the Pick-Sloan Plan creating the reservoir system/navigation channel. Click here to read a reprint of the 1944 editorial.
    Columbia Tribune, July 10, 2011 - "Wild Weather Wrecks Havoc on Corps' Plans" - a pretty balanced look at the different variables contributing to this flood.
    Bismark Tribune, July 9, 2011 - "Making Peace with the Missouri River" 
    Sioux City Journal, July 9, 2011 - "Tragedy Aside - Flood will benefit knowledge of Missouri River"
    Marshall Democrat-News, July 5, 2011 - "Flood of 2011 illuminates question of priorities"


    Missouri River Politics
    St. Joseph News-Press, July 11, 2011 - "Graves’ amendment points out ‘absurdity’- Corps spends millions more on wildlife than on levees"
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 10, 2011 - "Senators to Meet Over Future of Missouri River"
    Missouri.net, July 7, 2011 - "Time To Study Levee Districts and the Missouri River Basin?" (audio) State of Missouri Agriculture Director calls for study of levee system.
    Associated Press, July 8, 2011 - "Ag Secretary Questions Corps on Missouri River Flooding" 
    Omaha World-Herald, July 8, 2011 - "Branstead Criticizes River Group"
    Columbia Tribune, July 6, 2011 - "McCaskill calls Corps inquiries seeking property along Missouri River insenstitive"  Also - Tribune publisher Hank Waters writes a response editorial: "Claire and the Corps - Politics or Bad Performance?"

    Montana
    Billings Gazette, July 11, 2011 - "A Tour of Fort Peck Dam: An Engineering Marvel Holds Back Massive Missouri River"
    Billings Gazette, July 11, 2011 - "Oil Spill Cleanup continues on Yellowstone River"
    Time Blog, July 11, 2011 - "Why Yellowstone Oil Spill So Difficult to Clean Up"

    Dakotas
    Yankton Press-Dakotan, July 8, 2011 - "Dams Burdened by Rain" 
    Sioux City Journal, July 11, 2011 - "Some Along Missouri Wonder Why they Received no Levees"
    Jamestown Sun, July 8, 2011 - "Officials need to be ready when river returns to "normal""
    Omaha World-Herald, July 9, 2011 - "Reservoirs Gain a Little Room"

    Iowa/Nebraska
    Omaha World-Herald - July 11, 2011 - "Unwelcome News for Displaced"
    KTIV - Channel 4, Sioux City - July 10, 2011 - "Sandbags fighting more than water" - Sun degradation is yet another force working against temporary flood protection.
    Associated Press, July 5, 2011 - "Congested Missouri River Threatens Tributaries"  
    Omaha World-Herald - July 8, 2011 - "More Omahans Get Flood Warnings"
    KETV Channel 7, Omaha - July 6, 2011 - "Aid could come slowly for flood Victims" 
    Omaha World Herald - July 7, 2011 - "Blasting of Levee OK with Branstad"


    Kansas/Missouri
    KMZU - 100.7 Carrollton, MO - July 11, 2011 - "Wakenda Levee Breaks"
    Marshall Democrat-News - July 9, 2011 (Updated July 11) - "Private Levee Overtops in Malta Bend Bottoms"
    Missouri.net, July 7, 2011 - "Missouri Levee Association Chair Provides Latest Flood Info" (audio story)
    St. Joseph News-Press, July 6, 2011 - "Flood Fest 2011 to raise funds for relief"
    Kansas City Star, July 8, 2011 - "Missouri River overtops Carroll County Levee"
    Pulaski County News, July 8, 2011 - "Missouri National Guard conducts anti-flood operations in Cooper County in Wooldridge, MO"

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Iowa and Nebraska border becomes an inland sea - flood spreads downstream

    It's been said over and over...this flood is unlike any other. Because of the dam system, the Corps of Engineers was able to take the top off a monstrous flood and spread it out over time. So now we have a severe to moderate flood for at least two months straight.

    In communities closer to the dam, it's guaranteed to be high all summer. The further downstream you go, the continuous flooding will be less severe, but the chance exists with a lot of rain for a really massive flood event on top of it all. In addition to the tens of thousands of acres of flooded farmland and rural towns behind failed levees, the more protected urban areas are in for a constant test and struggle off their defenses and infrastructure. This is going to be one tiring summer.

    A major storm Sunday night focused over Northwest Missouri caused a major spike in areas that had been holding steady because of a lack of rain...from the border south. The rains also caused spikes from Sioux City on down. A heavy equipment operator at the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant near Blair, NE, punctured the AquaDam surrounding the plant, causing floodwaters to move up to the building itself and splashing the plant all over national news. According to plant officials, the building itself is watertight for several more feet. Details in stories below.

    It's getting tougher to cross the Missouri River as new bridges are closing each day.

    Ditch-6 Levee at Hamburg - June 27, 2011
    Hamburg, IA, surrounded by temporary levee
    Currently, very little rain is forecast in the basin for the next several days, giving a break for communities preparing for bigger water. Levees are breaking like crazy in northern Missouri/Kansas and heading downstream.

    Here's an update on some good news coverage throughout the flood zone:

    Some News and Information Aggregate Sites
    Big Muddy News only publishes updates a couple times a week. We're a good place to check in here and there for a pulse of what's going on. But there are a lot of constantly updated sites you can check out for the absolute latest information. In addition, browse previous postings for other great links. Here's a few:
    Missouri River Flood Event and Activities - interactive map of news, flood relief info and volunteer info:http://mightymoriver.crowdmap.com/
    On Facebook:
    Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Flood Page - projections, inundation maps, tips on sandbagging, levee knowledge, more
    Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District Flood Page
    National Weather Service Missouri River Basin Overview

    Aerial Photos and video

    Montana
    CNN blog, June 24, 2011 - "Waiting for Snowpack to Melt, How Fast and Furious will the Snowpack Gush into the Missouri River?"  According to the Corps of Engineers, the snow above Fort Peck peaked at 141% of normal and is now down to 25% of normal.  The snow in the reach between Fort Peck and Garrison (primarily the Yellowstone basin) peaked at 136% and is now down to 27%.

    Dakotas
    KSFY-TV - Pierre - "Local official tried to warn Corps of potential flooding in February" - a story about a local man who had been watching snowpack accumulate in National Weather Service data and tried to spread awareness of the possibility of major flooding. This was before the May rains that changed the game. A well done, non-hysterical local news story.
    US Army Corps of Engineers - June 28, 2011 - Corps to inspect spillway gates at Big Bend July 1 - The Corps will be shutting down the spillway to check for erosion and stability of structure. They anticipate this will take one day. 
    Bismarck Tribune - June 28, 2011 - "Missouri River Scour threatens property, digs deep"  Scouring has created spots along Missouri River 100 feet deep.

    Iowa/Nebraska
    Omaha World Herald, June 27, 2011 - "Flood test not over for nuke plant"
    Omaha World Herald, June 27, 2011 - "NRC chief stays dry at Cooper plant"
    Omaha World Herald, June 28, 2011 - "NRC: Nuke disaster risk low" after visiting Fort Calhoun plant
    Omaha World Herald, June 29, 2011 - "Bridge stroll a lesson on the river" Teachers use the flood as a teaching tool.
    KETC-Channel 7 - Omaha, June 28, 2011 - "Bluffs residents fight flood from below - Water reported in hundreds of basements in city"
    Sioux City Journal, June 28, 2011 - "All's quiet in Decatur with bridge closed"
    Reuters, June 27, 2011 - "Regulator signs off on threatened Cooper nuclear plant"
    Associated Press, June 27, 2011 (video) - "Flood Challenges nuclear plant"

    Missouri/Kansas
    St. Joseph News-Press, June 27, 2011 - "Flooding Closes Casino"
    St. Joseph News-Press, June 28, 2011 - "Officials fight flooding river" Including photos of casino employees cars flooded in parking lot.
    St. Joseph News-Press, June 28, 2011 - "As flood closes highway bridge, Atchison residents worry" Atchison, KS, cut off from Missouri.
    Kansas City Star, June 27, 2011 - "Information on Flood flows many ways" - Social media helps spread important information along with misinformation.
    Kansas City Star, June 28, 2011 - "Businesses get ready for Missouri River flooding"
    Columbia Missourian, June 29, 2011 - "Missouri River Flooding Closes one road to Cooper's Landing" Actually both roads are covered right now. Waters should begin dropping this weekend. 
    Lake News Online, June 28, 2011 - "Flooding on Missouri Slows down Bagnell Dam operations"

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    160,000 cfs to continue until mid-August

    Once again, substantial rain in the upper basin, as well as the lower river, forced the Corps to bump up their Gavin Point dam releases to 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). They now say this new peak flow will continue "well into August". Revisions of the projected flood inundation maps will be released soon. Releases are being adjusted constantly throughout the reservoir system as the Corps tries to make room for new pulses of runoff while providing a steady flow out of Gavin's Point Dam.

    Many more levees have broken and overtopped, floodwaters are backing up into new areas and up the tributaries. Several more towns have been evacuated. With rain on top of that, the hydrological projections have been gyrating and changing with each new projection. That uncertainty on top of the certainty that this will go on all summer is a tough combination for everyone that lives or works along the river.

    It appeared earlier this week that levee breaches dropped the "crest" enough at Brownville to keep the beseiged Cooper Nuclear Plant from reaching their "mandatory shutdown" river stage of 45.5 feet. Yet after a brief trough, the projection goes up again. Towns in the St. Joseph area experienced the same reprieve.

    The Iowa & Nebraska border has become an inland sea pinched off by an hourglass bottleneck at Omaha/Council Bluffs. An inland sea moving downstream but not going away anytime soon.

    Dramatic images of Nebraska's two nuclear power plants surrounded by water have helped fuel some wild rumors. There is a section below of stories related to these plants. 

    One by one, communities downriver are adding flood protection, or moving out. The uncertainty of what will happen is forcing decisions to take action now. All river traffic has been closed by the Coast Guard from Leavenworth to Gavin's Point Dam.

    The tenacity and hard work of family, neighbors and volunteers has been a major part of the story in this midwest region. There is a lot of frustration, of course, and the blame game is ongoing, but mostly people realize the reality of the situation and are acting on their own to deal with it. It's pretty inspiring, and what some of these communities have accomplished in short times is amazing.

    A lot is being published on the web on the flood, despite the relative silence in much of the national media. There are several great news feeds, both from official sources and the general public. I've posted many of these in previous posts. Here's a collection of stories and links from the past several days:

    Interactive Flood Maps
    link to news stories, volunteer info and more
    Missouri River Flood & Event Activities - a volunteer-based information "Crowdmap" network on the flood
    Interactive Flood Map - Omaha World-Herald updates each day: shows county by county updates of Iowa/Nebraska flooding
    Advanced Hydrological Predictions - Missouri River Basin - click the colored dot to link to hydrograph. 
    Montana
    Great Falls Tribune, June 24, 2011 - "Flooding Likely to Return to Montana"
    Story from June 6, 2011 - for perspective on the snowmelt we are now experiencing - Bismarck Tribune - "Abominable Snowpack Lurking in Montana Mountains"

    Dakotas
    Pierre Capital Journal, June 24, 2011 - "High Tributary Flows Due to Heavy Rain Near Pierre"
    Associated Press, June 24, 2011 - "SD Gov. Dennis Daugaard takes lead role in Missouri River flood fight"
    Yankton Press-Dakotan, June 24, 2011 - "Flows Of 160,000 cfs Threaten More Yankton-Area Homes"
    Yankton Press-Dakotan, June 25, 2011 - "Residents rush to fix levees"
    Bismarck Tribune, June 25, 2011 - "Groups begin planning for flood aftermath of tree die-offs"
    Bismarck Tribune, June 24, 2011 - "Voluntary Evacuations to continue indefinitely"
    Pierre Capital Journal, June 25, 2011 - "Oahe Reservoir to peak 2/10 of a foot from top of spillway gates"

    Iowa/Nebraska
    The Omaha World Herald has run a really good series of background articles following up recent days rain -
    Reuters, June 24, 2011 - "Above the Missouri River, only treetops and rooftops" 
    Council Bluffs Daily Nonpariel, June 25, 2011 - "FLOOD: Farmers, officials join forces to fortify levees, keep water at bay"  - volunteers and officials rebuild over 30 miles of levees in area north of Council Bluffs.
    Lincon Journal-Star, June 24, 2011 - "It's season of flooding, finger-pointing for Corps of Engineers"
    Wallace's Farmer, June 24, 2011 - "Flooded Farmers reassured by USDA Risk Management Agency" - Flood insurance will apply to this event for farmers. The other side of the coin is the many people who never anticipated a flood, weren't in a federal floodplain but are flooded.
    Sioux City Journal, June 25, 2011 - "Truckers driving more to accommodate I-29 flooding detours''
    Sioux City Journal, June 26, 2011 - "EXPLAINER: How Americans came to rely on the sandbag"
    PHOTOS - Sioux City Journal, June 23, 2011 - Flooding in South Sioux City
    Des Moines Register, June 26, 2011 - "Opinion - Missouri River Compromise"

    Updates on Cooper and Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plants
    Iowa Independant, June 24, 2011 - "NRC spokesman: No need for Nebraska spent nuclear fuel casks to be protected"
    Associated Press, June 24, 2011 - "Nebraska nuclear plant gets relief from levee breach"

    Wall St. Journal, June 24, 2011 - "Nuclear Regulator to visit Nebraska Plants Amid Flooding"
    Bulletin of Atomic Scientists - "Rising Water, Falling Journalism"
    US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Relations - "Rumors and the Rising River"
    Ashville Citizen-Times, June, 24, 2011 - "Floods spur wild rumors of nuclear plant perils in Nebraska"

    Kansas/Missouri
    St. Joseph Channel 3 - June 24, 2011 - "Atchison County Residents Worn Out by Floodwater" with video
    St. Joseph News-Press - June 25, 2011 - "Nasty Stuff - Public Advised to Stay Away from Floodwaters"
    St. Jopeph News-Press - June 25, 2011 - "Trying to make a living - Businesses affected by flood find day-to-day operations difficult" - A 27 mile commute becomes a 150 mile commute with road closures.
    Kansas City Star, June 24, 2011 - "Levee break upstream delays flooding near Kansas City" & "Corps letter causes dust-up"
    Kansas City Star, June 25, 2011 - "Levee breaches continue"
    Columbia Missourian, June 24, 2011 - "Flood barriers placed along Katy Trail in Rocheport" It's a precaution. This river town is still open for business and Katy Trail is open. 
    Kansas City Star, June 26, 2011 - "Missouri River is taking toll on recreation" 

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Some dams increase to 160,000cfs; more levees fail in Iowa and Missouri

    Rain (and predicted rain) in the upper plains states have caused the Corps of Engineers to ramp up releases of water from Oahe and Big Bend reservoirs to 160,000 cfs. In their nightly briefing, the Corps said, "If weather continues to deteriorate the Corps will lose its ability to manage intra-system adjustments and may have to increase releases from Fort Randall and Gavins Point".The releases combined with rain have increased flooding in the Pierre, SD area. Rainfall also has caused small spikes in the river in the Sioux City area and below.

    The Corps releases daily average inflow and outflow at each dam, and on Monday, June 20, 4 out of the 6 dams in the system were receiving much more water than they were releasing.

    Over the weekend, several levees breached or began overtopping near the Iowa/Missouri border, flooding areas near Big Lake, Craig and Rockport, MO, and Brownville, NE. The Coast Guard closed an additional 100 miles of the river to all navigation. The river is now closed from St. Joseph (rivermile 450) to Gavin's Point Dam (rivermile 811).

    Sandbagging has been ongoing along the Nebraska/Iowa border, and sand supplies are getting low in Omaha and Sioux City. Infrastructure continues to be strained, with sewer and drainage problems increasing as many outflows to the river are closed. 30% of Nebraska's power production is offline due to flooding. Huge swaths of agricultural land are flooded in Nebraska, Iowa and northern Missouri. All bridges crossing the river south of Plattsmouth and north of St. Joseph are closed due to flooding on their entrance ramps. Many highway and road closures, including sections of I-29, are causing major travel delays across the region.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    150,000 cfs - the long flood fight has just begun

    On Tuesday, June 14th, the Corps of Engineers brought releases at Gavin's Point dam up to 150,000 cfs. Releases are expected to stay there until at least mid-August, according to the latest Corps announcements. Rain continues to fall in the upper basin, and rain storms (not extreme) have been moving through the lower basin all week, expected to continue through to the weekend.

    Levees and banks, expecially temporary sandbag and earthen levees are now being tested, and will continue to be tested as the summer onslaught continues. Levees have been breached near Hamburg, IA, and in Holt County, MO. Throughout the areas receiving the most intense flooding, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa, it is agricultural land and rural communities that are the most hard hit. Urban areas are generally more protected, but are feeling the effects of road and interstate closures, utility infrastructure flooding, tributary flooding and bank erosion. The aerial photos being posted on the web (some linked below) are stunning.

    The further downstream in Missouri you go, the less intense the threat is. Rainfall in tributaries such as the Grand has been less intense than the past several years, giving a cushion to downstream areas. It appears that a baseline for mid-Missouri, for example, is coming in below the Corps estimates. At least for the moment. Large snowmelt is expected in the Platte valley and new releases are being let out of Kansas River basin reservoirs ahead of the major water on the Missouri, and to release pressure on reservoirs such as the Milford Dam. The Corps continues to draw down Truman Lake on the Osage.

    Here's some links to check out the latest on flooding:

    Facebook 
    There are several really good Facebook pages focused on the flood, posting news stories from around the basin as well as information on sandbagging, relief efforts and Corps press releases. Here's a few I've been looking at:
    Aerial Photography
    Corps Response
    Brigadier General McMahon explains how Master Manual guided decisions during winter and spring. Click here.

    Montana
    Great Falls Tribune, June 13, 2011 - "Fort Peck officials work to stay ahead"

    Dakotas
    Bismarck Tribune, June 13, 2011 - "Flood Pollution will be minimal, experts say" - the article suggests the large flows should dilute toxins, then describes all of the things that are bound to end up in the river.

    Video of canoe trip through flooded Bismarck - Say Anything Blog - June 14, 2011 - Click here.


    Sioux Falls Argus Leader - "Residents deal with high water" - touching video of interviews with Dakotans fighting the flood.


    Nebraska-Iowa
    Hamburg Reporter, June 15, 2011 - "Update: Breach grows; new estimates indicates temporary levee near Hamburg may be topped"


    KETV Channel 7, Omaha, constantly updated - Gallery of viewer submitted photos


    Sioux City Journal, June 15, 2011 - aerial video tour of Siouxland area 

    Keloland TV, June 15, 2011 - "Big Sioux Floods Missouri River Boat Club"
    Keloland TV, June 15, 2011 - "Missouri eating away at small river community"

    Iowa Public Radio, June 15, 2011 - "Engineer doubts temporary levees will hold back floodwater"

    Omaha World-Herald, continuously updated - "County by County map and flood impact updates" - a great at-a-glance resource. 
    Omaha World-Herald, June 15, 2011 - "Eppley fights off floodwaters" - the Omaha airport tries to keep floodwaters out.
    Omaha World-Herald, June 15, 2011 - "Heineman's worry: Will Levees Hold?"
    Omaha World-Herald, June 11, 2011 - "Policyholders get late surprise"

    Des Moines Register, June 10, 2011 - "Branstead Chides Corps Missouri River management"

    Videos of Hamburg Levee Breach posted by Atchison County Emergency Management. Click here.

    Missouri
    Kansas City Star, June 12, 2011 - "All hands on deck in St. Joseph" -

    St. Joseph News-Press, June 8, 2011 - "Power Plants Prepare for Flooding"


    Marshall Democrat-News, June 14, 2011 - "Expected flood of 2011 may be less dramatic, more chronic than 1993"


    KRCG 13 TV, June 14, 2011 - "Mid-Missouri officials prepare for Missouri River flooding"

    St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 15, 2011 - "Senator Blunt blames Missouri River flooding on 'faulty plan'" and then proceeds to spread more misinformation blaming endangered species. Unbelievably, he claims the Corps was holding water for their "Spring Rise" plan. Hopefully as this event proceeds, our policy makers will eventually be educated on the reality of the Missouri River.
    St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 13, 2011 - "Army Corps of Engineers defends handling of Missouri River"
    St. Louis Post Dispatch, June15, 2011 - "Flooding not expected to be heavy in St. Louis area, Corps says"

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Gavin's releases approach 140 kcfs, new levees being tested

     As flows from Gavin's Point Dam approach 140 kcfs (thousand cubic feet per second), new levees and sandbag structures are being tested throughout South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. In addition to flooding of riverside homes and businesses, utilities and infrastructure are being tested in many communities. From water supplies, wastewater plants and train routes to interstate closures and electric plants, eyes are watching the rising floodwaters and the effects it will have on commerce and basic services. See below for frightening video of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant, which is already surrounded by water.


    Lower on the river, Missouri communities are attempting to prepare for predicted high flows which, because of relatively dry weather and low flowing tributaries, have not yet manifested. Rain is currently falling in Nebraska, Iowa and northwestern Missouri, heightening the chances for increased tributary flow.


    Missouri River Flooding 2011 Facebook page
    This page is doing a good job posting news stories several times a day from communities struggling with flooding. Click here.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Dam releases spike over weekend

    Following their plan of evacuating high runoff through the Missouri River reservoir system, the Corps of Engineers began accellerating releases from a string of mainstem dams this weekend. In order to give communities time to react to the impending flooding, the Corps had slowed the increase in releases last week. Late last week, those releases began to accelerate again.

    Rain continues to fall in the upper basin, but the Corps has not publicly changed their reservoir operation schedule at this time. A spat of dry weather in the lower basin has given a moment of relief for lower river communities preparing for a summer of high water.

    As the stakes have risen, various theories of blame have been tossed around, from blaming the Corps of Engineers for not releasing enough water this winter to blaming "upstream states" for fighting to hold too much water in the reservoirs for recreation to blaming the Endangered Species Act for somehow tying the Corps' hands. None of these scenarios is really true. The Corps followed their Master Manual, designed to leave plenty of room in the reservoirs to handle snowmelt and runoff. The runoff this year is unprecedented in timing and scale. The endangered species on the river had no impact on the Corps release decisions.

    Missouri River 340 cancelled - moved to Kansas River

    Organizers of the Missouri River 340, the world's longest non-stop paddler race from Kansas City, KS, to St. Charles, MO, have elected to cancel the ultramarathon race for 2011 due to a high likelihood the race course will be flooding at the scheduled date.

    The race had registered over 340 boats for the 2011 event, which was to be the sixth annual run of the race. Near certainty of above flood stage river levels for most of the race course caused race organizer Scott Mansker to look for a new alternative. In order to give an option for racers who have been planning for months on the original July 19-22 dates, Mansker's organization, Rivermiles, elected to move the race to an alternative location, 150 miles of the Kansas River, from Manhattan, KS, to Kansas City, KS.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Editorial: Flood blog by author of "Unruly River"

    For folks trying to understand the history and changes of the Missouri River, you can't do much better than reading "Unruly River" by Robert Kelley Schneiders.

    Right now Dr. Schneiders is in the Dakotas now and is travelling along reporting on the flood as it happens throughout the basin. You can follow his observations at: http://ecointheknow.com/news/  .

    Here's one of his pieces published June 3, 2011 in the Omaha World-Herald, reprinted with the author's permission. As always, the opinion pieces reprinted on Big Muddy News reflect the opinions of the author alone. They are important for gaining perspective on a complex issue.

    Midlands Voices: Rethink flood role of Corps

    By Robert Kelley Schneiders, Ph.D.

    The writer, of Boulder, Colo., has written two books on the history of the Missouri River, “Unruly River: Two Centuries of Change Along the Missouri” (University Press of Kansas, 1999) and “Big Sky Rivers: The Yellowstone and Upper Missouri” (University Press of Kansas, 2003). He is the co-founder and director of Eco InTheKnow, LLC, www.ecointheknow.com.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Flood Update - Stories throughout the basin

    As the flood moves through the reservoirs in Montana and the Dakotas, unprecedented flooding is occurring in communities adjacent to the river below the dams. Rain continues to fall in Montana and snow melt has certainly begun in earnest, flowing into already swollen tributaries that feed the dams.

    Several of the dams have reached capacity, and now Garrison Dam, above Bismark/Mandan North Dakota has begun opening it's spillway gates. This is part of the emergency plan the Corps has in place, but is the first time this has happened. Pierre, SD below Oahe Reservoir is being hit very hard, with emergency levees being built and preparing for over a month of very high releases.

    In the lower river, below the Gavin's Point Dam, upstream communities are seeing rising waters in direct correlation with the increasing dam releases (now releasing at 85,000cfs) . Those releases will be increasing fast over the weekend and into next week, reaching 140,000 cfs by early next week (a bit earlier than previously projected). 

    The Corps has released flood inundation maps for the Omaha District (the Dakotas south to Rulo, NE). You can view them and other helpful documents on the US. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Flood Response Page by clicking here. The Kansas City District has provided a range of river stages to be expected from Rulo, NE to Hermann, MO throughout June and July, as the dams are releasing 150,000. You can access those on the Kansas City District Flood Response Page by clicking here. They also have offered a document showing at what level each levee will be overtopped and how likely that is (click here for levee projections)

    Just how bad this will get is uncertain everywhere...the rapidity of snowmelt and precipitation can change everything. But the further downstream you go the more uncertain it gets, with the addition of tributaries like the Platte, Kansas, Grand, Osage and Gasconade. If there is significant rain, even similar to the last several years, we are looking at levels we haven't seen since 1995.

    Here's a few stories from throughout the basin:

    Montana
    Associated Press, May 30, 2011 - "More rain, snow, National Guard troops for Mont."
    Towns in Montana and the Dakotas struggle with flooding, prepare for more.

    North and South Dakota
    Huffington Post, May 31, 2011 - "Missouri River Flooding 2011: South Dakota Residents Told Evacuation Could Last 2 Months (with video)"
    Towns are sandbagging and evacuating communities predicted to flood for several months.

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Release, May 31, 2011 - "Garrison Dam spillway gates to open for floodwaters for first time"

    Cherokee Chronicle Times, May 31, 2011 - "South Dakota towns erect flood walls"

    Nebraska
    Lincoln Journal Star, May 31, 2011 - "Diminsions of river overflows getting deeper"
    Reservoirs in in the Platte are being drawn down as soon as possible ahead of snowmelt and ahead of highest Missouri River flows. Eyes are on the Cooper Nuclear Plant near Brownville, NE, where the access road from Brownville is flooded and 6.5 more feet of water would force a plant shutdown.

    Video: from Omaha World Herald Tribune of flooding in many NE and IA communities, June 2, 2011 - "Flooding Sights and Sounds"

    Iowa
    Sioux City Journal, June 1, 2011 - "Plan for South Sioux City flood barrier takes shape"
    & "Flood of 2011 one for the history books"


    Omaha World-Herald, June 2, 2011 - "Southwest Iowans pack up"

    Missouri
    St. Joseph News Press, June 1, 2011 - "Army Corps predicts river at 27 to 32 feet in St. Joseph"

    Columbia Missourian, June 1, 2011 - "Record Precipitation, Reservoir Releases to Cause Missouri River Flooding"
    A great overview of the flood from the perspective of Mid-Missouri.

    KMOX - ABC News St. Louis, June 2, 2011 - "NWS: Dire Warning About “Significant Flooding” Threat Along Missouri River"