COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — The governors of several Midwest states hit recently by flooding along the Missouri River said Friday they've received assurances from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the states will "have a seat at the table" when it comes to river management decisions.
"That was crystal-clear when we left that table, that the states were going to have some say in how the river is managed," said Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson after leaving a meeting with Corps officials. Parson was joined by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, both Republicans, and Kansas Democratic Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers. It was the second such meeting since last month's flooding that devastated farms and communities and ripped apart roads and bridges, causing more than an estimated $3 billion in damage.
Ricketts said the four states are considering pushing for formation of a Missouri River management group — similar to the Mississippi River Commission — that would include representatives from the states.
"We're going to work together and pull together as four states ... to be able to change the way the river is controlled," he said.
The Mississippi River Commission was formed 140 years ago to recommend policy regarding flood control, navigation and environmental projects on the Mississippi River. Its membership consists of three Corps officers, a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and three civilians, two of whom must be civil engineers. The U.S. president appoints the commission's members.
"We along the Missouri River don't have that," Ricketts said. "I think it's something we should look at."
The state leaders also received an update Friday from the Corps on the progress of repairing the largest levee breaches along the river, most of which occurred in southwestern Iowa. Reynolds said repair contracts for three of the four largest breaches have already been awarded and that some of the repairs could be finished as early as July.
The Corps announced Friday that it awarded a $6 million contract to repair a 1,200-foot breach on the levee south of U.S. 34 in Mills County, Iowa. The initial repair will provide flood protection to areas behind the levee, including work to repair U.S. 34 and Interstate 29, both of which were heavily damaged by the flooding and remain closed.
The Corps expects that repair to be finished within 45 days of the work beginning.
Earlier this week, the Corps awarded a $12 million contract to repair a Missouri River levee near Hamburg, Iowa.
The Corps says the breach repair should provide temporary flood protection of critical infrastructure. The repair is expected to be completed within 80 calendar days after work starts.
Project manager Jeremy Szynskie says initial repairs will stop the flow of water through the levees so repairs can be made to Interstate 29 and the city of Hamburg.