Blunt: Funding for Mississippi, Missouri River levee repair inadequate

Sunday, August 21, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt calls funding for levee repair and replacement along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers is inadequate.

In a conference call with reporters, Blunt says he was worried about the funding request for the rivers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' budget even before flooding began on the two rivers. He says the president's budget request rests too heavily on issues other than flooding and river control.

"It was inadequate and by comparison, was totally out of balance with the money the president was willing to spend on land acquisition, sand bar restoration, fish repopulation," Blunt said. "All those things should be well below the number one priority of river management, which should be floodway management."

A statement from the Corps of Engineers, dated Feb. 14, 2011, lists the outlay for the Mississippi River and its tributaries at $210 million in the fiscal year 2012 budget.

On Friday, Gov. Jay Nixon attended a summit of fellow Missouri River state governors in Omaha, Neb., and reiterated that flood control should be the number one priority of the Corps of Engineers in its river management policy. The group signed a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh.

"There is clear consensus that flood control must be the highest priority in the operation of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System," the governors' letter read.

Blunt said he hopes the events of the summer will cause the Obama administration to rethink its budget proposal.

"Maybe the seven-state flood in the Missouri River and the many states impacted by the Mississippi, will help convince the president we need to re-prioritize the money available for the river in ways that get the levees restored to at least their condition at the first of this year."

Blunt was sharply critical of the Corps of Engineers decision to replace the Bird's Point levee in Southeast Missouri at a level 11 feet below where it was when the corps destroyed it in a flood control maneuver in May. A corps spokesman said earlier this week that the move was due to a shortage of funds and that the levee would be rebuilt the rest of the way once funding became available.

"They should have thought of that before they blew the levee up," Blunt said. "There's some responsibility here by the corps that they broke it, now they ought to fix it."

Blunt said he has been in contact with corps commanders and that he and the rest of the Missouri congressional delegation and Nixon are united in their quest to get the levee rebuilt to the 62-foot level it was before the corps exploded it.

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