Protect the many

By Sonja Gjerde

The roaring waters of the Missouri river rush past to one side, and a struggling cornfield growing in sand to the other, Judd Kneuvean of the Army Corps of Engineers explains the affects of the flood of 2011.

The Corps had to make several crucial, and controversial decisions involving the lives of those living along the Missouri River.

“In about ten minutes you’re going to declare a flood emergency,” said Kneuvean.

He explained this to his superior at a meeting in early spring, 2011. Due to incredible amounts of snowmelt and rainfall the Missouri River reached a level of pressure dams could not support.

The Corps realized that this would be a year of immense pressure for action.  They were faced with the decision of where, when, and how water should be released. Then, in public briefings, the Corps had to face the people their decisions would directly affect.

“I don’t take my guys in uniform,” said Kneuvean. “If kind of makes them a target.”

Many agriculturalists harbored some hostility toward the Corps.  Flood mappings were released in early spring and were displayed during briefings for those who would be affected by flooding.  Agriculturalists blamed the Corps for mismanagement they thought to cause the flood to be worse.

As Kneuvean spoke, it was apparent the amount of emotional strain this caused him.  He answered people with farms that were destroyed, homes decimated, trees and wildlife killed and the loss of two Missouri lives.

The flood happened over a year ago, but the memories and devastation will remain. The Corps is still a target for victims of the flood, and Kneuvean continues to be a beacon citizens turn to blame and question.

“Hurt the few to protect the many,” said Kneuvean.

A motto he stands for with each question and accusation he continues to answer.

— Edited by Philip Joens, sports journalism undergraduate

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