Wednesday, December 21, 2011

US Army Corps of Engineers did their best with Missouri River flooding

Brian Gehring in the Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota): The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did “an extraordinary job under a lot of duress” in managing record flooding along the Missouri River this summer, although changes in management could help prevent a repeat, an independent panel has concluded.

The corps was not negligent in its management of the flooding, the report found, although it recommended changes in evaluating flood storage allocations should be considered. The findings were included in a 99-page analysis released Tuesday that was prepared by a four-member panel appointed by the corps.

The panel said the corps did not accurately predict what turned out to be record runoff, but neither did other forecasting agencies. Bill Lawrence, a member of the panel and a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Okla., said a large area of Montana — roughly 250,000 square miles — was hit with 300 percent of normal precipitation in May.

“It wasn’t just one or two areas,” Lawrence said. “It was an area about the size of Georgia.” The report shows the infrastructure of the dams performed as designed with no deficiencies, said Neil Grigg, a member of the panel and professor at Colorado State University.

...The study said the inaccuracy of forecasting runoff prevented the corps from increasing releases and providing more flood storage. Grigg said while improvement on modeling and communication can be made, a review of flood storage allocations should include floods like 2011 or larger....

Rulo Nebraska and Rulo Bridges in the 2011 Missouri River floods on June 15, 2011. The edge of Big Lake is in the upper left. A US Army Corps of Engineers photo

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