WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, today testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works regarding flooding conditions in Kansas along the Missouri River.
The following is a statement from Roberts:
“While 79 percent of Kansas is currently experiencing drought conditions, earlier this year – starting in May and lasting through September – Kansans living along the Missouri River were engaged in protecting their property due to record amounts of water flowing down the river.
“During that five month stretch four Kansas counties – Doniphan, Atchison, Leavenworth and Wyandotte – were one four-inch-rainfall-event from catastrophe.
“As it was explained to me, Gavins Point acts as the spigot, and this summer the spigot was wide open. The Corps had little to no management control once the water was released from Gavins Point.
“Kansans living in the towns of White Cloud, Elwood, Wathena, Atchison, Leavenworth, and Kansas City, Kansas were watching the weather forecast daily and praying for dry conditions all the way from the Nebraska/South Dakota boarder down to Kansas City.
“Thankfully no major rain events occurred otherwise I would be sitting in front of you discussing loss of life and significant property damage.
“I say that very humbly because many Kansans did experience major property damage. Everything from a local agricultural seed business, to homes and business, to agricultural fields were damaged and destroyed. And not to mention the cost endured by local and state governments to sandbag and post National Guard troops on levees to watch for sandboils and water overtoppings.
“Back in July, I joined my friend and former colleague, Governor Sam Brownback on a tour of the flooding going from Kansas City to Elwood to Atchison.
“We visited with first responders and government officials and offered assistance. Time and time again we heard of how the river has been ‘mismanaged’ and how, in my view, the 432-page Missouri River Master Manual needs to have additional emphasis placed on the top priority – flood control.
“I have heard from more than one upset farmer who has had his field flooded multiple times in the past decade that the tail is wagging the dog and too much emphasis has been put on recreation, fish and wildlife – specifically through a “spring pulse” – and water quality.
“While these purposes are congressionally approved they should not hinder the primary purpose of flood control. The dog should wag its’ tail and Congress should ensure the Corps is putting flood control above all else.
“That is why earlier this summer Senator Johanns and I introduced S. 1377, a bill requiring the Corps of Engineers to take into account all available hydrologic data in conducting Missouri River basing operations.
“No one knows where the next rainfall event will occur, or how much rain will fall in a given amount of time, nor will anyone be able to accurately forecast this winter’s snowfall.
“But we now have new precipitation records for the upper Missouri River basin.
“Congress must ensure this latest data is incorporated and used in a timely fashion in any and all Army Corps of Engineers management decisions in order to limit to the greatest extent possible a flood of this year’s magnitude from occurring again.
“To that end, I look forward to working with this committee, Brigadier General John McMahon, COL Tony Hofmann, as well local and state partners to protect the life and property of Kansans living along the Missouri River.”
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