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Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri Governors: States Should Have A Bigger Role In Managing Missouri River

Katie Peikes
IPR file
The governors of Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri want more input in managing the Missouri River and they want to work together on short-term and long-term ways to do so.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and governors from two neighboring states along the Missouri River agree that their states will need to have more input in managing the river in the future.

They met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to talk about recovering from record flooding, repairing levees and how to manage the river.
Gov. Reynolds, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson say they want answers from the corps about the way they’ve been managing the river as flooding seems to have gotten worse over the years.

At a news conference in Council Bluffs, Reynolds said they all agree they want to do things differently to prevent future flooding. The governors want more input in managing the river and they want to work together on short term and long term ways to do so.

“Can we look at being more flexible and innovating in the type of materials that we’re using when we’re re-building the levee system?” Reynolds said. “In the short-term we’re going to concentrate on dealing with the four major breeches and figure out a way that we can stop the inflow. And then long-term we’re going to sit down and talk about what that strategy looks like.”

Ricketts said they’ve asked the corps to communicate with them about future solutions for managing the river together.

“All of us believe that we ought to be prioritizing people and communities to make sure we’re keeping them safe,” Ricketts said.

As the governors look for answers about what they can do in the short and long term, Missouri's Mike Parson emphasized that they are still “not out of the woods yet” with this year’s flooding. Snowmelt from northern states is still coming down the river and spring rains are on the way.

“We’ve got to take care of the people in each one of our states and the situation we’re in," Parson said. "Then we look at those levees, we have to stop looking at short term, try to basically just plug the gap right now until we can to where we can do more structural things.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was unable to make it to Wednesday's meeting. Reynolds said she would be part of the efforts going forward. The governors plan to meet with the corps again in three weeks.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been criticized for the way it manages the river, including making the southwest Iowa town Hamburg lower a levee that protected it from flooding in 2011. The corps said the addition to the top of the levee did not meet federal standards, and funding to do that could not be raised.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.