In a letter sent today to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst expresses the anger and frustration of many Northwest Missouri landowners who are currently experiencing flooding. Hurst said, “To put it bluntly, the Missouri River has been hijacked by those who believe recreation and endangered species are more important than protecting lives and property.” The letter from Hurst reads as follows.
Dear Colonel Hofmann:
The past few weeks have taken a toll on citizens throughout the United States. Tornados, flooding, droughts and wildfires have resulted in billions of dollars in losses and untold human suffering. You and your staff have no doubt seen firsthand the resiliency of our citizens and their steadfast determination to overcome this adversity. While every natural disaster cannot be anticipated, the responsibility remains to use preventive measures whenever possible.
As President of Missouri Farm Bureau, and a family farmer in the northwestern part of the state, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of flooding along the Missouri River. We recognize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and others who are working day and night to prevent further damage to property and infrastructure and agree the flood fight is paramount at this point.
It will soon be incumbent upon the Corps to use information such as recent weather patterns, releases from upper basin reservoirs and the performance of levees below Gavins Point Dam to ensure the Missouri River is once again managed to maximize flood protection rather than drought mitigation. To put it bluntly, the Missouri River has been hijacked by those who believe recreation and endangered species are more important than protecting lives and property. The federal government has ignored the fact the Missouri River System was designed to provide flood protection, a priority that has withstood the test of time and the legal system.
We, along with many others, will be looking to the Corps to once again make flood protection the primary management objective of the entire Missouri River System. This entails steps such as additional storage in the upper basin reservoirs and enhancing the levee system below Gavins Point Dam. Our members have absolutely no interest in hearing about ongoing threats from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or tales of dry recreational boat docks in upper basin lakes; they want to know the system is being managed to provide them with a higher degree of flood protection. They also want to be assured that priorities have changed and we are no longer spending $85 million a year on an experiment to protect two birds and a fish and only $3 million for Missouri River operation and maintenance.
To make matters worse, we have seen a copy of a letter dated June 6, sent to landowners along the Missouri River, in which the Corps is offering to buy land from “willing sellers.” Even if the letters are not tied to current flooding, there is no excuse for the poor timing. To this end, the Corps should refrain from sending any additional letters until high flows have receded.
You have been in the areas affected by flooding and must sense the frustration of those impacted by the high flows. People are upset and expect changes to be made which will once again reflect the primary role which flood protection must play in managing not only the upper basin reservoirs but the entire Missouri River System. We stand ready to assist with these efforts and will continue to vehemently oppose plans which focus management efforts on factors such as recreation and threatened or endangered species.