Tuesday, June 21, 2011

corps general in jefferson city...,


Video - General John McMahon on Missouri river flooding.

OzarksFirst | The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' commander for the Missouri River basin came to the state capital Monday and stayed on script before an audience best described as skeptical.

Brigadier General John McMahon answered questions in front of an audience of about 40 people at Jefferson City's city hall Monday for about 20 minutes, before meeting with business owners at a private lunch and finally touring the city's northern river front.

For weeks, the corps has been saying its management plan for releasing water from the upper Missouri River basin through it's series of reservoirs and dams was on schedule until heavy rains struck Montana in May.

Farmer Terry Hilgedick from nearby Hartsburg, an area prone to flooding, questioned McMahon about the corps' policy of releasing water at a relatively slow rate, despite record snowfall and snow-pack in Montana and the Dakotas.

"You knew that you had a larger snow -pack and even larger projections than even last year, which was the second highest (snow fall and snow-pack) in a year," said Hilgedick.

"We had everything in place to accommodate the snow-pack," said McMahon. "What we didn't have in place was this unprecedented amount of rain in the upper basin states that took away our flexibility."

The general's comments echo the corps' position on the reasoning behind its record releases of water over the last month or so. As of Monday, the dams along the upper Missouri, including the final dam, Gavins Point near Yankton South Dakota, continue to pump out a record volume of 150,000 cubic feet per second.

The Gavins Point Dam began pumping that full volume of water on June 14. The first of that surge is just now reaching Kansas City. McMahon said it would be at least another week before river levels came up in Jefferson City, and another three days or so beyond that before the surge reaches St. Charles and the confluence with the Mississippi River.

Already, levees are being overtopped and breached in northwest Missouri where residents of the town of Big Lake have evacuated. The river reached an all time record level at Rulo Nebraska earlier Monday, and officials in southwest Iowa continue to eye flood waters that are lapping at a new flood wall built to protect the south end of the community of Hamburg. McMahon said the corps will continue running water at Gavins Point and its other dams at their current volume until at least the middle of July, and could go longer if rain continues over the northern basin. And McMahon said the reservoirs continue to take in more water than they are pumping out.

McMahon and Kansas City corps commander, Col. Anthony Hoffmann came to Jefferson City at the request of Ninth District Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and Fourth District congresswoman Vicky Hartzler.

"There's a lot of questions out there about how the corps arrived at the decisions they have," said Rep. Hartzler. "This is a precarious situation."