To The Herald-Whig:
With the recent flooding in Texas, it reminds us again about the potential problems we have here in the Upper Mississippi. Instead of updating our flood protection standards and preparing for another potential flood like we endured in 1993, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' current bureaucratic regulations are still stuck in 1940-50-era standards. This was an era when the greatest flood of record was in 1947, a flood height we now see on average every few years. Research completed just last year by the United States Geological Survey shows our region of the nation as the only one with significant increases in all four metrics of rainfall data -- greater duration, greater frequency, greater magnitude and greater volumes of water.
In a post-Katrina Corps study, completed in 2008, the Mississippi River Commission recommended major improvements to our level of protection. However, Congress and the administration never acted on these recommendations. As a result, the Corps is still stuck in the 1950s.
The Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers Association (UMIMRA) is committed to implementing a systemic flood control plan for the Upper Mississippi. Our vision is a system that will convey a major flood greater than 1993 through the valley with minimal property damage and no loss of life. Key components would first include the establishment of additional storage in the upland areas, similar to what Iowa is doing, by encouraging a greater density of ponds and lakes with private property owner participation. Second, provide a mechanism to compensate those who elect to store water under mutually agreed conditions, something the 2008 plan failed to include. Third, refine the 2008 plan to allow a more distributed level of improved protection areas, as well as annually compensated storage areas. And fourth, to authorize a governing body to execute the plan. We recommend the same governing body for the upper five states as exists in the lower five states, the Mississippi River Commission. This commission has experience with major flood events and is made up of both private sector and federal officials.
For a plan to move forward, we need federal authorization. If given the authority to proceed, many of the 140 levee districts of the upper valley are willing to invest in the structural improvements using local assessments. We need federal and state support to implement the non-structural requirements like upland storage, flood storage and reductions and changes in regulations.