|2011 USDA photo of Missouri River flooding|
Matt Bunk, publisher and editor of the Great Plains Examiner, conducted the first post-flooding, one-on-one interview with Jody Farhat, the Army Corps of Engineers' chief water manager for the Missouri River reservoir system, who said her agency was bound by federal regulations to make sure water levels were high enough during the spring to supply a range of needs.
If we were only managing for flood control it would be easy. We would just drain the reservoirs,” Farhat told the Great Plains Examiner on Friday. “But there are many interests that want us to hold water for all the things the water supplies … and Congress doesn’t give us a bye on any of them. Regardless of whether it’s a high-water year or low-water year, we are supposed to provide water for all of the authorized purposes.(Via The Reader)
The way Farhat explains it, the flood that has displaced thousands of homeowners along the river this year was the result of a wild rainy season and strict requirements to do things by the book. The master manual that guides the Corps of Engineers’ water-management decisions requires special considerations for flood control, navigation, water supply, water quality, hydropower, irrigation, recreation and fish and wildlife. The document, last updated in 2004, is intended to help the Corps of Engineers balance all of those sometimes-conflicting objectives.
The problem is the book didn’t account for the possibility of record-shattering amounts of rain in May. It also didn’t account for estimates that showed higher-than-average snowpack in the mountains to the northwest. So, neither did the Corps of Engineers’ water managers – until it was too late.