Dredging & Marine Construction

Congress Members Sound Alarm On Lower Missouri Navigation

As harvest season begins, an urgent letter from members of Congress representing districts along the Missouri River is drawing attention to the “dire” navigation situation created by a maintenance backlog on the lower river.

Although the entire Missouri River suffered unprecedented flooding in 2019 along its length, the letter attributes the “current conditions and challenges impacting the navigation channel” to “previously constructed shallow water habitat chute projects and dike notches.”

The letter was sent to Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, chief of Engineers, with copies to R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army-civil works, and the commanders of the Kansas City and Omaha Engineer districts. It was signed by five U.S. senators and five out of eight members of Missouri’s congressional delegation.Signers included Sens. Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senate president pro tempore. Reps. Vicky Hartzler, Ann Wagner, Jason Smith, Sam Graves and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri also signed.

“We write today to convey a growing concern that we continue to hear from navigators and industries that rely upon the Missouri River for the transportation of their raw materials. Currently, there is a critically dire situation related to navigation challenges in several areas along the Missouri River where serious barge traffic accidents have occurred and commercial activity has nearly come to an abrupt halt” as harvest season gets underway, the letter stated.

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Both the Omaha and Kansas City districts have been using supplemental emergency funds to quickly repair levees and restore channels damaged by the historic flooding of 2019. The Kansas City District alone has received about $20 million in extra money, but the letter said the need for resources between Omaha and Kansas City stands at about 10 times that amount. “As this situation evolves, we request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers utilize administrative flexibilities and direct additional resources to address these challenges along the Missouri River,” the letter urged.

The Corps estimates that high water over the past three years has damaged between 50 and 75 percent of the 7,000 river training structures that make up the congressionally authorized Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project.