Corps of Engineers Faces Criticism for Flood Management
Massive flooding this spring in the Midwest and beyond has put a renewed spotlight on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, report Manny Fernandez and John Schwartz:
Local and federal lawmakers in both parties, as well as flooded residents and their lawyers, say the Army Corps has mismanaged its waterways, allowed its infrastructure to age and crumble — the average age of the more than 700 dams it operates is 56 years — and has moved away from its flood-control mission in favor of protecting endangered wildlife as well as commercial and recreational interests.
Corps officials say they have had no choice in terms of releasing water from full reservoirs in a number of states. But homeowners and farmers dealing with the resulting flooding say that the agency should have released water earlier in the year before the rains came. Still, the Corps stands behind its flood management protocols, and officials say that some flooding needs to occur to prevent large-scale destruction.
The issue of how flooding is handled is not new, and last year the agency lost a federal lawsuit related to flood management along the Missouri River. "The judge found that a series of changes the Corps had made in the management of the Missouri River worsened flooding during more than 100 flood events from 2007 to 2014," note Fernandez and Schwartz.