Guest Columnist

Grassley: Long-term flooding fixes are needed

FILE PHOTO: The contents of grain silos which burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County, Iowa, U.S., March 29, 2019.  Photo taken March 29, 2019.  REUTERS/Tom Polansek/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The contents of grain silos which burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County, Iowa, U.S., March 29, 2019. Photo taken March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Polansek/File Photo

Families and small business owners along the Missouri River have had their lives turned upside down by flooding earlier this year. Recent weather has caused re-inundation, hindering those who are working to rebuild their lives and communities.

President Donald Trump recently signed into law a multibillion-dollar disaster relief package. It included an amendment I offered to provide specific relief for farmers who lost grain when flooded bins busted. Midwest assistance also includes funding for agriculture, transportation, Economic Development Assistance and Community Development Block Grants. It’s a good first step. However, long-term solutions are necessary to help mitigate damage caused by natural disasters.

Farms and businesses in southwest Iowa are without even minimal flood protection, due to breached, overtopped or compromised levees. Fixing and maintaining this critical infrastructure is a vital part of recovery. Some of this responsibility is that of the Army Corps of Engineers. While the Corps is currently working to fix the large breaches, I will continue to work to provide resources to restore and strengthen these levees as quickly as possible.

For years, I’ve worked with my colleagues in Congress to put pressure on the corps to put the protection of life and property at the top of the list of priorities identified in the corps’ Master Manual. Flood control should be the No. 1 priority in operations of the river.

From 1979 until the changes in 2004, the Master Manual stated that the No. 1 priority was flood control. Changes to the manual since 2004 made it so the corps must balance the purposes of the river. Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in flood frequency and in floodwater levels. In a field hearing held in Glenwood earlier this year, Sen. Joni Ernst and I had an opportunity to question the corps on its management of the river. I continue to have conversations with corps leadership about this important issue.

Additionally, I co-sponsored the Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control Civilian Advisory Council Act. Introduced by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, the bill would create an advisory council. The council would be appointed by the president in consultation with the Senate and would include two members from each state that borders the Missouri River that represent the agriculture community and other river commerce industries.

The council would be responsible for making recommendations to the Corps of Engineers and Congress about how to prioritize flood control and navigation. It would facilitate open communication and provide a forum for ideas from stakeholders to help reduce the impact of future flooding. I also co-sponsored the Missouri Flood Control Prioritization Act, which would restore flood control management as the Corps of Engineers’ highest priority on the Missouri River system.

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There’s no way to stop natural disasters from occurring. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the damage they cause. I will continue working with my congressional colleagues, as well federal agencies, stakeholders in Iowa and the Corps of Engineers to find and enact solutions that will help families and businesses rebuild and help prevent and reduce the devastation caused by natural disasters.

• Chuck Grassley is a Republican U.S. senator from Iowa.

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