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Residents Testify At Flood Hearing

November 30, 2011, 5:55 PM by Perry Groten

Residents Testify At Flood Hearing
WASHINGTON, DC - South Dakota's displeasure over how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handled flooding on the Missouri River echoed loudly on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

A House subcommittee took testimony from Missouri River states over how to prevent future flooding.

The hearing was hosted by the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment which oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps is writing up a new operating plan for the Missouri River for 2012. The lessons learned from the flooding of 2011 will likely chart a new course for changes.

Many of the people testifying at the hearing agreed that the Army Corps of Engineers is juggling too many interests when it comes to managing the Missouri. They say the corps needs to narrow its focus and make flood control its top priority.

"From all the information that I've seen, I believe the Corps of Engineers carries some responsibility for this disaster," South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem said.

Ft. Pierre's public works director says the winter's heavy snowpack should have been an early red flag to the corps that historic flooding was on its way.

"While no one could have predicted the heavy rains in Montana in May, everyone could have predicted that the water stored in the snowpack was going to run off. The failure to determine the risk involved in the water stored in the plains and mountain snowpack led to lack of decisive action," Ft. Pierre Public Works Director Brad Lawrence said.

Lawrence says a lack of communication slowed Missouri River communities' response to the flooding. He recommends a military-style alert system to give homeowners and businesses a quicker heads-up.

"And you start going on down through the different threat conditions and then you come up with one that's going to say this is something that's dangerous, something's going to happen," Lawrence said.

The army corps says it should have done a better job of communicating during the flood. The corps is planning on conducting conference calls twice a month to update the public on Missouri River water levels.

In addition to drawing up a new Missouri River management plan in 2012, the corp is also conducting an internal review of how it responded to flooding. That review is expected to be finished by year's end and will be made public in January.

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