By Brendan Gibbons
In June 2011, water flowing from the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River would have filled 1.8 Olympic-sized swimming pools every second.
In that year of high precipitation, the Army Corps of Engineers’s decision to open the dam unleashed a flood of controversy among farmers and residents of Missouri River bottom lands. Many homes and fields in this part of northwestern Missouri were under water for four months.
Steve Klute, a farmer who works on the higher land in the bluffs near Rock Port, said the flood of 2011 was different than the flood of 1993. In 1993, downpours in Missouri caused the river to rise. In 2011, the Corps’s decision to relieve pressure on its upstream dams led to flooded fields in Missouri.
“You didn’t want to be wearing a Corps of Engineers hat in Atchison County,” Klute said. “There was someone to point a finger at.”
Jim Crawford, a natural resources engineer with MU Extension in Atchison County, thinks the Army Corps have bumped flood control down a few places on their list of river management priorities.
“The dams were put in place primarily for flood control,” Crawford said. “That’s been shifted to priority four or five.”
After some thought, he added that farmers and residents had let their anger go.
“Most producers came to the realization that it happened. Any lingering animosity, I would say, is not an issue,” he said.
But another resident said farmers hadn’t yet forgotten the issue.
“The general consensus is they don’t care for the Corps” Atchison County Sheriff Dennis Martin said, as he observed river bottom farm fields from Highway 136.
“The biggest trouble is they have too many bosses,” he said. “You’re going to get one administrator who’s pro-tree-hugger, then one who’s pro-people.”
The Corps makes its all of its decisions about managing the river according to its master manual, which is available here.
— Edited by Cade Cleavelin