The Attack of the Greenies

A couple of weeks ago, we did an article about how badly Nebraska is flooding this year, and how we’re coping with it. That story continues, Nebraska floods every year, it comes from having major rivers, especially ones that are slow flowing and meander, which describes the Missouri, to an extent, and applies strongly to the Loup, the Platte, and others. While Nebraska is not as flat as people going through on I 80 assume, it isn’t Colorado either.

It’s not entirely curable, but it used to be a lot better, and not that long ago. Why? Let’s let Joe Herring, of The Herring Report, out of Omaha tell us.

In the pages of American Thinker, I recently discussed the degree of responsibility I believe should accrue to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the current catastrophic flooding across parts of South Dakota,  Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and nearly all of Nebraska.

In that piece I clearly stated that the entirety of flooding could not have been prevented by the Corps, or any other earthly organization.

However, the unprecedented severity and frequency of flooding throughout the Missouri River basin – most specifically, that which has resulted in all but 9 of Nebraska’s 93 counties being under a federal disaster declaration – has increased dramatically in recent years due to one reason only, and folks, it ain’t climate change.

Permit me to provide context.

Average runoff in the Missouri River basin above Sioux City between the completion of the dams in 1967 and 2004, (when the management priorities were altered), averaged 25.19 million acre-feet (MAF).  SeeTable 1

The average runoff between 2004 and 2018 is 25.3 million acre-feet, a statistically insignificant difference.

While the 2004-2018 average includes two of the three highest runoff years since the advent of the dams, the 1967-2004 average includes SEVEN of the top ten runoff years since the dams began operation, including the 2nd highest runoff ever recorded, 49 MAF in 1997.  See Table 2

Table 2

Yet, despite these stressors, before the Corps abandoned flood control as the highest priority of the dam system, these 7 top ten high runoff years resulted in flooding far less severe and significantly less frequent than that seen since the change.

Why?

 

The Corps reflexively claim that all eight Congressionally “authorized purposes” (according to the Master Water Control Manual) are weighted equally, with priority shifting depending on circumstances.

While the Corps yet believed protecting people and property was a more worthy aim than the well-being of two birds and a fish, the riverbanks were routinely stabilized, shored up against ordinary erosion and the scouring of high-water events.

This was done under the authority of the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP), which, along with the construction of the system of dams, freed up hundreds of thousands of acres of former floodplain for farming and development.

Under the BSNP, channels were dredged regularly to keep them free of silt infill.  A target depth of 9 feet was maintained in the lower reaches of the river to ease barge traffic, but a deeper river also meant increased capacity to handle runoff, greatly enhancing the draining efficiency of the river.

The Missouri is the longest river in our nation, accepting the runoff of millions of square miles of mountain and plains snow and rain.  A major part of the flood control plan relied on the enhanced flow of runoff through the river channel, not across the floodplain.

During this flood-focused phase of Corps management, dikes and levees were built and assiduously maintained. Chutes, (secondary channels of a meandering river) were closed to inhibit the spread of the river in seasons of high-water. Long reaches of the river were deepened and straightened in a process known as channelization.

Channelization greatly enhanced navigation and promoted efficient handling of runoff.  Once a touchstone for responsible river management, the word is now spoken in hushed tones, much the same way our grandparents once whispered “cancer.”

All these things (and more) combined to permit millions of Americans to develop the newly-accessible lands for farming, ranching and homes. Indeed, these millions of Americans were encouraged to do so by their elected representatives, who happily took credit for the resulting economic benefits and increased tax revenues generated by that development.

I grew up in the floodplain of the Kankakee River in northern Indiana, 15 miles from the river. Indiana had dredged the river, and it worked efficiently. But as close as we were to Chicago, and on one of the main trunk railroads, as well as one of the much rarer north-south ones, the entire area was essentially undeveloped until the river was channelized and the swamp drained. What they now call wetlands, of course. When I left, floods were, after most of a century, again becoming a problem, because Illinois refused to dredge the river, and so it backed up, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Read the rest of this fine article, and start wondering how the US government somehow decided its mission was a couple of birds, not the people of the United States. If you find a valid reason, good on you. I find it at best counter to the best interest of the country, at worst seditious. Not what we should expect from the USACOE.

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