Lawmakers urge Corps to prioritize flood control on Missouri

The Legislature voted Feb. 27 to urge Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make flood control a top priority when managing water systems under their authority in the Missouri River basin.

Sen. Julie Slama
Sen. Julie Slama

Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, sponsor of LR288, said flooding along the Missouri River in 2019 devastated many Nebraska communities. She said much of that flooding was due to a “systematic failure” by the Corps, which has authority over many levee systems in Nebraska as well as a network of six dams used to manage water flows in the Missouri River basin.

Although the Legislature cannot require the Corps to change its master water control manual for the basin or to update its levee standards, Slama said, LR288 would signal to Congress and the Corps that the lives and livelihoods of Nebraskans who live along the river deserve priority.

“Until the Corps of Engineers prioritizes flood control, makes investments to update levee standards and starts taking our concerns seriously … these towns along the Missouri River will continue to be flooded,” she said.

The resolution states that the Corps should prioritize flood control over fish and wildlife protection when creating future manuals and updating levee standards. A copy of the resolution would be sent to the Corps and to each member of Nebraska’s congressional delegation.

Creighton Sen. Tim Gragert supported the resolution.

“With the extreme weather events we have experienced,” he said, “I believe it is important for the Corps to reevaluate their master manual and place flood control as a top priority in managing the reservoir system on the Missouri River.”

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha opposed the resolution, saying that the Legislature cannot require the Corps or Congress to act.

“[LR288] doesn’t help anybody, doesn’t hurt anybody, doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t do anything,” he said.

Senators voted 43-1 to adopt the resolution.

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