Green Insanity Is Flooding Towns and Destroying Lives
Having written extensively in these pages (read here, here, and here) on the catastrophic flooding of the Missouri River basin in 2011, I believe that the occasion of this present flood disaster plaguing Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota has given rise to many questions. Foremost, I have been asked if there is an environmentalist element, as there was in 2011, when the Corps of Engineers intentionally permitted the flooding of eight states in order to further their highest priority (as per the Master Water Control Manual) of "habitat restoration for riverine wildlife" at the expense of the original top priority, flood control, and the preservation of human life and property.
Green "deism" does play a role in our current woes, but not as directly as it did in 2011. More of a "Best supporting Actor," in this case.
The Master Water Control Manual is the bible of the Missouri River basin dam system. It defines the duties and protocols to be followed in order to best meet the various needs represented in the list of priorities.
From the completion of the dam construction (in 1967) until 2004, the Master Water Control Manual listed the priority functions in order of importance, with flood control being number one.
1) flood control
2) irrigation and upstream beneficial uses
3) downstream water supply
4) navigation and power
5) recreation and wildlife
In 2004, under pressure from environmentalist organizations who had been lobbying hard for the previous decade, Congress approved a revision to the manual that no longer specifically prioritized the uses of the system, leaving the order of the functions to the discretion of the Corps of Engineers.
The previous list was then essentially upended, with wildlife (habitat restoration, preservation, and imitation of natural cycles) becoming the top priority, and all the others swapping places back and forth depending on the year.
Flood control slipped lower and lower on the ladder as the Green movement grew in strength, demanding a return to the "wild rivers" that, in their sainted opinions, man should have never attempted to control.
This led the Corps to utilize the dams in a way for which they were never designed — to attempt to mimic the natural cycles of the river through the seasons.
In spring, the pre-dam river rose and flooded with the snow melt and spring rains. In the summer, flows slowed, and levels dropped until fall and early winter, when rains and sporadic snow-melt cycles increased the flow prior to hard freezing.
The "engineers," guided by the Endangered Species Act, not the Flood Control Act, bank water throughout the fall and winter, preparing to release it in spring to mimic nature with a sort of controlled flood.
Sometimes they get away with the gamble, but other times nature intrudes on their Gaia-worshiping skit and provides a stark reminder that "playing God" and "being God" are quite different things, indeed. Nature lets loose with the real thing in the form of heavy snowfalls, heavier than normal rains, or a super-thaw from a rapid increase in temperatures and a wind-driven warm rainfall that rid thousands of square miles of an average three feet of snowpack in roughly 36 hours, as happened last week. And once again, the faux gods were caught short.
Did the Corp cause the current flooding? In my opinion, no. However, it greatly contributed to its severity in numerous ways, not the least of which is its influence on the management of smaller tributary rivers and streams throughout the basin — the very rivers and streams that are presently roaming miles from their banks. The primary reason the Corps deserves a major share of responsibility is its mismanagement of the dam system. Had they been drawing down water throughout the early winter in anticipation of a higher than normal runoff due to higher than normal snow accumulations in the lower reaches of the basin, then the tributaries presently flooding would have had more room to drain through their natural outlet, the mighty Missouri river.
Would it have eliminated the flooding we see destroying farms, homes, and roads on our televisions (or right outside our own windows!)? Not entirely, no. However, it is unarguable that managing the Missouri River mainstem dams with an eye toward flood control above all else would have greatly minimized the severity of the event.
Don't forget: we still have all the mountain and plains snowmelt in the upper reaches of the basin yet to come, as melting in that region doesn't begin in earnest until late April and early May. Fortunately, the accumulated snowpack levels in the upper basin are roughly normal, unlike in 2011, when they averaged 275% of normal — a circumstance of which the Corps was repeatedly made aware, and one it chose to ignore.
After the 2011 flood and my subsequent exposure of the Corps's liability through the series of articles (linked above), a congressional investigation was launched into the management of the system. A civil lawsuit on behalf of affected landowners was also filed.
The congressional investigation found precisely what I had described: that the disordered priorities rendered millions of people vulnerable to the very circumstances the dam system was built to prevent.
However, under pressure from extremely well funded environmentalist organizations, Congress stopped short of ordering the Master Water Control Manual to be revised, failing to order flood control to again be the top priority. Instead, legislators settled for the Corps of Engineers promising to do better next time.
The civil suit fared better, as politics and intimidation were largely removed from those proceedings. They won their case against the Corps and a 375-million-dollar judgment as damages.
However, the Master Water Control Manual remains untouched to this day, and the people's safety remains suborned to the fevered dreams of wild-eyed greeniacs populating the agencies charged with management of our natural resources. As of this writing, 74 cities, four tribal areas, and 65 counties in Nebraska alone were under declarations of flood emergency, with the bulk of those towns cut off from the rest of the state entirely by standing flood water or destroyed roads and bridges. South Dakota and Iowa both tell similar stories of disaster.
Hamburg, Iowa, a small town southeast of Omaha, experienced terrible flooding in 2011. The town bolstered and raised the levee that protected their town and managed to save some of it from further ravages during that months-long catastrophe. Always eager to help, the Corps of Engineers informed the city of Hamburg that its levee had to be "brought up to standard" or reduced to its original height.
The cost of such a project, 5.5 million dollars, was simply too expensive for such a small town, still reeling from the flood aftermath. Sadly, they acceded to the Corps's demands and removed the portion of the levee that had saved them in 2011.
Hamburg is now almost entirely underwater — not a few inches, mind you, but several feet underwater, across the town. It is entirely likely that Hamburg will simply fade into memory once the waters recede, a victim of environmentalist hubris and bureaucratic formality, a footnote in the Corps's grand march to restore the mighty river to its once untamable self.
There is no way to eliminate the possibility of flooding. The best we can do is to prevent flooding to the greatest extent possible. There is only one way to accomplish that: revise the Master Water Control Manual and make flood control the highest priority once again. Then ensure that the Corps follows it to the letter — under penalty of law.