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$64 Questions

By Staff | Aug 16, 2011

Ever since the flooding along the Missouri River began earlier this summer, one of the many $64 questions being asked has been, “Who is to blame?” Depending on your point of view, there are different ways to answer that question.

What we know for sure is that last winter, there were some exceptionally heavy snowfalls in the western mountain ranges that eventually drain to the Missouri River basin. There were also some major snowfalls across North and South Dakota and the remainder of the upper Midwest as well.

As we know, when the seasons change, snow melts and becomes water at least that’s what I remember from physical science in junior high.

Now, interestingly enough, after a moist winter, the Spring was also noted for some extra moisture this year as well some large rainfall totals that fell in the upper plains states, that, combined with the gradual melt of the mountain and higher elevation snowcaps, began running into the various reservoirs managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps is charged with operating and maintaining systems of dams, reservoirs and locks on navigable rivers and also assume jurisdiction over those rivers, such as the Missouri and the Mississippi.

Early this year, back around February and March, several independent weather analysts began projecting larger than average amounts of water coming into the plains states reservoirs, levels that could threaten the dams that are used to create hydroelectric power that helps light homes across the Midwest.

At the same time, officials along the Missouri River began hearing the projections of the analysts, and started thinking about the consequences of flooding along the river. Needless to say, the projections were frightening, at best.

Several analysts sent communications, whether e-mails or memos to the Corps, but somehow, someway, the Corps “Was never made aware” of those early projections, according to a spokesperson.

The end result was that during the months of April and May, when spillways could have been opened at the various dams across the Dakotas to help lower those reservoir levels, nothing was done. But, as the Summer dawned, the Corps suddenly decided they were in danger of flooding their reservoirs and needed to open the spillways and open them they did, to the tune of 160,000 cubic feet of water per second.

Needless to say, the Missouri River rose, flooding thousands of acres, forcing hundreds of families from their homes, and destroying acres upon acres of crops down the length of the river. Whole communities were evacuated; people uprooted, businesses lost, and homes slowly ruined by standing waters.

And in the middle of the whole sorry incident, the Corps states that if they had known earlier, they’d have done something about it.

Now, we are in August, authorities say the river’s levels will slowly come down by the end of October as the Corps of Engineers reduces the spillway flows from the dams. The river waters will recede, and all that will be left will be acres of mud, ruined homes and people looking for answers and help.

Given the recent fiasco in our nation’s capital over the debt ceiling, it seems painfully obvious that our government will not do anything for the people affected by this sorry episode. Our government continues to argue, much like children on a playground, while our country’s people are left to their own devices. It seems almost incomprehensible that the nation once considered the most powerful on Earth now seems to be the most powerless to take care of its own, because the leaders don’t seem to care or understand how life really works anymore.

It seems like high time for the partisan stupidity to stop, once and for all, and take care of the American way of life taking care of our people. Will we ever see it?

That’s the latest $64 question.