Problem With The Army Corps Of Engineers Is That Flood Control Stopped Being The Only Priority
Per the Associated Press, I see that Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven will serve on a committee to review flood control along the Missouri River. That’s all well and good, but I don’t think we need a bunch of politicians on a committee to tell us what the problem is.
The problem is that, long ago, flood control stopped being the priority of the Missouri River reservoir system. There are other issues. Government-backed flood insurance, for instance, has created a moral hazard for bringing homes in risky flood areas. But at the end of the day, taxpayers have spent billions on flood control efforts but that infrastructure has been hijacked to serve purposes other than flood control.
At the bottom of this post I’ve embedded the most recent copy of the US Army Corps of Engineer’s most recent Master Control Manual for the Missouri River flood control system. It is a complicated maze of policy, but reading through it what becomes clear is that there are several competing priorities for Missouri River flood control. Fish and wildlife concerns. Recreation. Tourism. Commerce and trade.
The Army Corps follows this Master Control Manual like a bible. Indeed, it takes a literal act of Congress to deviate.
The story of the poor management of the Missouri River system, and given the tragic flooding all along the Missouri River this year I think poor management is the right term, is one that’s all too common. Heavy handed, inefficient, myopic bureaucracy far too influenced by politics.
However important tourism and wildlife may be, the undeniable first priority must be protecting the lives and property of citizens living along the river. It was that mission for which the dams along the river were originally built. To have turned this water control system, which again was built and is maintained with millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars, away from that primary mission toward other, political concerns is an unconscionable betrayal.