Hoeven: Corps Agrees to Flexible Missouri River Management, Better Communication

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to a more flexible approach to Missouri River management ahead of potential flooding in the basin next year. Gen. John McMahon late Friday said the Corps will “change its approach to Missouri River Mainstream operations.” 

First, the Corps has agreed to be more flexible with fall and early winter releases. “We will get as much water out of the system as possible as weather permits and the repair work allows,” said Jody Farhat, Chief of the Water Management Division. 

Second, the Corps committed to an aggressive stance with winter and spring releases, and third, the Corps will communicate more frequently and broadly throughout the 2012 season. The agency committed to bimonthly conference calls with federal, state, county, local and tribal leaders, as well as emergency management officials, independent experts and the press to discuss reservoir plans and forecasts. 

Hoeven this week spoke with Gen. McMahon and also met with Maj. Gen. Merdith W.B. Temple, Acting Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers, to press for detailed information on the downstream constraints that prompted the Corps to reject the state’s request to lower water levels on Lake Sakakawea this fall, and also that the Corps provide residents with a better idea of when the agency will be able to create more storage capacity and greater flood protection ahead of next spring. 

Temple said the Corps will manage the system as flexibly and aggressively as possible to provide flood protection, and promised to get a more detailed response to the senator within the week. 

Last month, the North Dakota State Water Commission made a formal request to Gen. John McMahon, the Corps’ Northwestern Division Commander, to lower water levels on Lake Sakakawea by 2.5 feet this fall to create more storage capacity and greater flood protection for next spring. The request was supported by Hoeven and the state’s congressional delegation, as well as senators and governors throughout the Missouri River Basin. This past week the Corps denied the state’s request to take the lake 2.5 feet below last year.

“This latest announcement by the Corps is a step in the right direction,” Hoeven said. “After their ordeal this spring and summer, people living in the Missouri River Basin need to know that it’s not business as usual and that the Corps is doing all it can to protect lives and property in these hard-hit communities.” 

Hoeven, along with U.S. Senate colleagues from other Missouri River states, is working to press the Corps to incorporate lessons from this year’s flooding into next year’s operating plan for the Missouri River. Their goal is to improve flood control along the Missouri and address flood impacts on local communities throughout the basin.