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Southwest Iowa Levee Repairs Expected To Hold As Communities Anticipate Third Round Of Flooding

Katie Peikes
IPR file
Flooding near Pacific Junction seen in April.

The rising Missouri River is expected to crest later this week, possibly bringing a third round of flooding to parts of southwest Iowa. Federal officials say they are confident some levee repairs made this summer due to prior flooding will hold. They’re also keeping an eye on some breaches that haven’t been repaired.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has widened some berms on a levee near Hamburg, as part of interim repairs. It’s also finishing up some erosion control and riprap placement on a levee near Pacific Junction. These efforts will keep levees intact and reduce flood risks when the Missouri River peaks later this week, the Corps said. 

“Forecasted river stages will have some impact on the sand berm, but is not expected to have any impact on the constructed levee section,” said Matt Krajewski with the Corps during a Monday conference call. 

Krajewski added that the forecasted river peaks are not expected to impact repairs on a levee south of Council Bluffs. The Missouri River is expected to crest on Friday, reaching above minor flood stage or close to moderate stage near some parts of southwest Iowa.

Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius said he’s concerned about potential flooding, but said the Corps seems confident about recent repairs done to levee breaches near Percival and Hamburg.

“Everything depends on the weather, among other things, but they will also have people out monitoring the repairs on the levee, and if they see any issues they will work to take care of those issues,” Crecelius said.

Pat Sheldon, the president of the Benton-Washington Levee District, said the levee can hold an almost 30-foot river with minimal overtopping. He spent the weekend near a levee breach near Hamburg, where he said a 3-foot berm was built on top of the breach repair, to give Hamburg more protection.

“I don’t see anything that scares me right now at this point,” said Sheldon, acknowledging that people still need to stay alert.

The levee repairs done at Hamburg and Percival have a 25- to 50-year level of protection, Krajewski said.

“We do not expect these areas to be overtopped by the upcoming high water,” Krajewski said in an email. “We will continue to monitor throughout the event, both these locations and all of the levees that we are able to access.”

The Corps said in an email that there are breaches it has not closed where it expects water to rise. But these breaches are at the downstream end of the levees and will allow water to flow back into the river as it recedes. One of those is in Mills County, south of the Plattsmouth Bridge. The county said water is moving onto farm ground nearby.

It's been a wet year and wet September for the Missouri River Basin. States in the Upper Missouri River Basin, including Montana and the Dakotas, have received at least 400 percent more rain than average this month. The Corps is increasing releases from upstream dams this week to 80,000 cubic feet per second, so that it can get water out and free up flood control storage space for the 2020 runoff season.

Runoff in the basin, as of Sept. 13, is forecasted to reach 58.8 million acre feet for the year.

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.