Missouri River levee system still vulnerable after devastating flooding

6 months 1 week 5 days ago Tuesday, August 06 2019 Aug 6, 2019 Tuesday, August 06, 2019 8:38:00 PM CDT August 06, 2019 in News
By: Garrett Jones, KOMU 8 News
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CARROLLTON- Even as cities affected by May's tornado damage and this summer's immense flooding begin to recover, another problem waits around the corner.

Many levees along the Missouri River are broken. If rain keeps coming and they can't be repaired, there could be even more devastation.

High precipitation below river dams, extreme weather in Missouri, and the water that was already in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa has flowed Missouri led to extreme flooding in the past nine months.

These issues raise water levels in the river. The levee and dam system in place from the Army Corps of Engineers come in.

Dams are designed to take in some of that extra water and fill resevoirs. But if the water rises higher than the levees, it's all for nothing. 

The levees are elevated embankments designed to act as a wall to protect places near the river. Many along the Missouri River have already failed, and more could break if the waters don't recede enough for proper repairs.

Carrollton is a small town east of Kansas City along the Missouri river. They saw devastating damage from the flooding, and as of late July, their flood waters haven't receded.

Now, for Carrollton and towns like it, it's a waiting game. First, flood waters have to recede low enough for the levees to be repaired. The Army Corps of engineers is largely responsible for facilitating the repairs.

However, it has to take one levee repair at a time, and it's costly. J. David Rogers is the Hasselmann Professor of Geological Engineering at Missouri S&T. He has studied the dams for years, and said it can be tricky to pick where to start.

"The river doesn't obey state lines or policies," Rogers said. "(The Army Corps) is sending repairs to places where flooding has the biggest economic impact. It's an investment."

The issue is also compounded in that the Army Corps has to split the repair budget with money allocated to hurricane repairs.

According to public reports on their Northwestern District website, the 2019 water levels are the second-highest the Missouri River basin’s water level has ever been, trailing only the waters that led to devastating flooding in 2011.

People and their property say they are hurting. Many say they are wondering who to blame. Greg Arnold, whose bait and tackle has seen a 70% drop in business as a result, said it's not a problem going away any time soon.

"I have a bad, gut feeling about the future, because I feel these floods are going to continue every year, or two or three," Arnold said.

Carrollton's story is that of every city on the river. Residents say they want help on so they can be safe, but trust that everyone can "play ball." Their levee is broken, and they applied for an emergency funds to fix it.

If they don't? The flooding could be even worse next year.

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