Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Ernst Press Army Corps to Address Communications Shortcomings in Wake of Flooding

May 03, 2019

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa joined Sen. Joni Ernst in urging the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately address communications shortcomings that were brought to light during and after the disastrous flood events in Southwest Iowa.

Grassley and Ernst, along with several other senators from states in the Missouri River Basin, sent a letter to Corps Brigadier General D. Peter Helmlinger describing the feedback and concerns they have heard from stakeholders about the Corps’ operation in the wake of the floods. The letter specifically describes issues with communications between the Corps and local levee sponsors and those in harm’s way.

“In our discussions with constituents impacted by the March flooding, a lack of communication from the Corps was one of the most common complaints,” the senators wrote. “Local levee sponsors, homeowners, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders believe that advanced warning from the Corps—in the form of more frequent and informational communications—could have mitigated some of the damages. By the time most people in harm’s way realized the gravity of the situation, it was too late to move grain, farm equipment, and other assets to safety.”

Grassley and Ernst requested the Corps begin sending email updates to all local sponsors of Corps levees in the Missouri River Basin on a weekly basis starting within 30 days of receiving their letter.

Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and John Hoeven of North Dakota also joined on the letter.

The full text of the senators’ letter can be found here and below:

Dear General Helmlinger:

As you are aware, in March 2019, several states in the Missouri River Basin experienced severe flooding as a result of rapid snowmelt and intense rain storms. The flooding has caused at least $3 billion in damages and more than 60 levees were breached or overtopped in the region. Since the onset of this flood event, we have been in constant contact with our constituents, local, state, and federal emergency response officials, and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The feedback we hear from folks on the ground and the information and insights provided by the Corps are invaluable as we consider ways to prevent or reduce the severity of future flood events.

In our discussions with constituents impacted by the March flooding, a lack of communication from the Corps was one of the most common complaints. Local levee sponsors, homeowners, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders believe that advanced warning from the Corps—in the form of more frequent and informational communications—could have mitigated some of the damages. By the time most people in harm’s way realized the gravity of the situation, it was too late to move grain, farm equipment, and other assets to safety.

Taking this feedback into consideration, we respectfully ask that within 30 days of receiving this letter, the Corps begins sending e-mail updates to all local sponsors of Corps levees in the Missouri River Basin. We request that these updates be sent weekly throughout the duration of flood season (January through June). These updates should include the following: snowpack levels, available flood control storage in the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System, cubic feet per second (cfs) release rates at the system’s dams, flow rates in key tributaries such as the Niobrara, Nishnabotna, and Platte rivers, National Weather Service (NWS) precipitation forecasts, and the NWS spring flood outlook.

The weekly updates should also include historical data from the 2011 and 2019 Missouri River floods that will serve as frames of reference for current data. Our hope is that these updates will help provide local levee sponsors and other stakeholders with the information they need to prepare for potential flood events. Thank you for your attention to this issue.

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