Iowa Congressmen Call For Flood Hearings

Iowa Congressmen Call For Flood Hearings

Flood damage along Missouri River prompts representatives Boswell and Loebsack to ask for hearings on how U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handles flood management plans and regulations.

Last week, two Iowa Congressmen, Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack, both Democrats, sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure urging them to hold a hearing to discuss the current regulatory and statutory environment guiding Army Corps of Engineers flood management plans and flood control infrastructure and examine the flexibility and resources provided for the Army Corps to perform their duties fully.

Make sure flood control infrastructure is well-maintained and managed

"With Iowans battling rising waters yet again this summer, it is important that we ensure the Army Corps of Engineers is equipped with the necessary tools and resources to do its job, which is protecting lives and property," said Boswell. "A strong flood management plan should allow for the Corps to work closely with local, state, and federal officials to make sure current environmental conditions are taken into account. As a Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from a state whose residents must deal with flood conditions every year, I look forward to the opportunity to tackle this issue for Iowans and the communities impacted by flood waters."

"Making sure our flood control infrastructure is well-maintained and management plans are up to date and flexible is critical to flood prevention and awareness efforts now and in the future," said Loebsack. "Iowans are still struggling to recover from the devastating Floods of 2008, and given the urgency of addressing the current Midwest flooding, it is important that we examine our flood management plans and the operation of our flood control infrastructure to ensure that flood prevention and disaster response is as quick and effective as possible."

Hearing's purpose would be to discuss how Corps makes decisions

The purpose of the hearing would be to discuss the regulatory and statutory environment the Army Corps works within to ensure they have the resources, the flexibility and the ability to accept a stronger level of input from local, state or federal officials to ensure the management and operation of critical flood control infrastructure stays up to date in an evolving environment. 

As a result of the Floods of 2008 and ongoing flooding issues, Congressmen Boswell and Loebsack also urged President Obama last year to include a request in his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget for the Army Corps to perform scientific studies of management plans for the Army Corps flood-control reservoirs in Iowa.

Text of the letter Boswell and Loebsack sent last week to the leaders of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is below.

July 6, 2011

To: The Honorable John L. Mica, Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 2165 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

To: The Honorable Nick J. Rahall, Ranking Member, Committee on Transportation, 2163 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Mica and Ranking Member Rahall,

We write to draw the Committee's attention to the very important and timely issue of flooding and water management. As you are certainly aware, Iowa and the Midwest have recently seen a number of severe floods and storm related disasters ranging from 1993 to 2008, and now we are witnessing continuing flooding on the Missouri River and in North Dakota. Further, we have already seen one of the most damaging floods ever on the Mississippi River this year.

From the western border of Iowa on the Missouri River to the eastern border on the Mississippi River and in between, Iowa residents are affected by numerous flood control structures and navigation measures which all regulate water levels and water management in and surrounding the state. Whether it is dams and reservoirs or levees and locks, Iowans are certainly aware of the benefits such structures provide but also of the risks posed during flood events.

Given the numerous devastating flood events witnessed in Iowa and the entire Midwest since 1993, we respectfully request the Committee hold a hearing to hear testimony from flooding and weather experts, local or state officials, and Army Corps of Engineers representatives to discuss the current regulatory and statutory environment governing the development or altering of operation manuals and plans, maintenance, and use of dams, reservoirs, levees and locks under Army Corps jurisdiction. In order to ensure the Army Corps has the resources to perform their duties fully, a discussion on the fiscal situation faced by the Army Corps with respect to maintaining these structures for their intended purposes would be informative as well.

Additional questions could be explored such as: should management plans and policies be examined periodically to account for a variety of changes in weather, hydrology, or land use changes; how much flexibility is the Army Corps allowed to update management plans if they or state and/or local officials consider it to be necessary; does the Corps have adequate resources for maintenance of these crucial structures; do local and state governments have enough input on management plan decisions or initiating changes; what other potential issues or factors are affecting the operation of these structures for flood control purposes?

Research indicates flood events and severe weather are increasing so we feel it is appropriate for the Committee to examine policies dictating management and operation of reservoirs and other flood control structures so that such policies can be tailored, if necessary, to ensure flexibility and account for new developments. Many areas in Iowa are still recovering from the devastating Floods of 2008 and numerous areas will be recovering for years to come from the flooding this year. As a result of the Floods of 2008 and ongoing flooding issues, we urged President Obama last year to include a request in his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget for the Army Corps to perform scientific studies of the management plans for the Army Corps flood-control reservoirs in Iowa.

Through this hearing, we hope to be able to examine the regulatory and statutory environment the Army Corps works within to ensure they have the ability, resources, and can receive and accept a stronger level of input from local, state, or federal officials to ensure the management and operation of critical flood control infrastructure stays up to date and flexible in an evolving environment. Given the urgency of addressing current disaster recovery needs, the seemingly continuous instances of disasters this year, and hurricane season developing, we again respectfully urge the Committee to hold a hearing to address these important topics. Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Dave Loebsack        Leonard Boswell

Member of Congress        Member of Congress

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