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Published August 18, 2011, 02:55 PM

Missouri River governors to meet with corps

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Governors from several states along the Missouri River plan to meet with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss recent historic flooding along the river, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Wednesday.

By: Maria Sudekum Fisher, Associated Press

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Governors from several states along the Missouri River plan to meet with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss recent historic flooding along the river, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Wednesday.

Nixon said during Friday's meeting in Omaha, Neb., governors will question Brigadier Gen. John R. McMahon, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ northwest district, about decisions that led to this year's flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries.

The Corps of Engineers, which manages the river's flow by holding and releasing water from a series of reservoirs in upstream states, has said the releases from those reservoirs have been necessary to deal with high levels of spring rain and snowpack in northern states.

Also scheduled to attend the meeting are the governors of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, plus representatives of the governors of Iowa and Wyoming.

“The threat from the flood of 2011 is still very real,” Nixon said. “Water is moving downstream at historic rates and at historic volumes.”

Nixon said he also planned to emphasize to the governors of upstream state's the importance of flood control along the river.

“Historically the upstream states have not placed, you know, flood control at the top of their list when it comes to management of the river,” Nixon said at a news conference at the Remington Nature Center, located along the flooded banks of the Missouri River, which has been flooding in the northwest corner of Missouri since early June.

“I think this particular summer ... has heightened their understanding of how important flood control is,” Nixon said. "The state of Missouri's position on river management is clear. Flood control must be the top priority.

“First and foremost, I hope to have a solid discussion ... and try to bring them to our side of the discussion about how vital flood control is,” he said.

Corps spokeswoman Sarah Rivette said corps officials were pleased to be able to meet with the governors Friday.

“We're looking forward to being able to meet with our stakeholders and talk to the about the way that we manage the river,” she said Wednesday. “We're excited to be a part of that and have this conversation.”

Nixon also said financing levee repairs and recovery from other disasters, including the Joplin tornado, will be a priority during a special legislative session planned for September in Jefferson City. But he said it was too soon to know how much money will be needed to repair or rebuild the state's extensive levee systems.

“Rebuilding our levees isn't optional, it's essential,” he said.

Lanny Meng, a northwest Missouri farmer, attended Nixon's news conference and said he has worked with the corps on Missouri River issues in the past as an official in a northwest Missouri levee district.

“Always before whenever I was at these meetings, the upper basin states ... when we would champion flood control in Missouri, they would pooh-pooh us,” Meng said. "Flood control wasn't important for them.

“And now our governor is going to a meeting of governors where they're going to discuss flood control. This was unheard of two years ago, unheard of that upper basin states would consider flood control important. That's wonderful news.”

Bill Neely's family has had a cabin for generations at Big Lake, Mo., which has been flooded by the Missouri River for weeks. Neely, who did not attend Nixon's speech, said after learning about Friday's meeting that he is not optimistic the governors’ discussions will lead to change in the way the river is managed.

Neely, 74, said he has experienced several floods at Big Lake, but that this year's has been the most sustained.

“He might impress on them his ideas, but it won't do any good,” Neely said of Nixon. “I don't think they got enough power to get anything done.”

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