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Inside look at how U.S. Army Corps of Engineers monitors flood event

Posted at 10:40 PM, Jun 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 06:50:01-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With rain in the weekend forecast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to monitor dams, reservoirs and levees around-the-clock.

Officials gave 41 Action News an inside look Thursday at their Emergency Operations Center.

"We're looking at National Weather Service and the river forecast. We are trying to gauge where we are needed and we are using that to make our levee sponsors aware higher water is coming towards them," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Emergency Management Jud Kneuvean said.

Wet weather patterns this year have sent an unusual amount of water into the Missouri River.

Almost all of the reservoirs in Missouri and Kansas are at capacity, according to Chief of Hydrologic Engineering for the Kansas City District Eric Shumate.

Tuttle Creek hit its capacity last week as water filled its entire reservoir pool. The Corps had to release 33,000 cubic feet of water per second, and the releases continued into this week.

"We're trying to get space into that reservoir to get it back down into its normal flood control pool," Shumate said. "The only way we can manage the next flood-control event is to have space available to catch that rainfall."

After several levees breached, critics have suggested the Corps is mismanaging waterways. The agency currently balances competing obligations, including protecting wildlife resources, maintaining navigation for ships, promoting recreation and flood control.

"We certainly need to make them prioritize flood control and the saving of human life as the No. 1 priority," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told 41 Action News on Wednesday.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson echoed that sentiment, telling reporters in March 2019, "I think there's a long history of the state not being happy with the Corps of Engineers."

Of course, the Corps of Engineers gets its directives from Congress.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps said it cannot preemptively release water, because doing so could prove disastrous, especially if it rains.

For example, water released from Tuttle Creek near Manhattan, Kansas, typically takes four days to reach the Missouri River.

"Once you let the water out, you have no control over it in the next few days as it's traveling downstream," Shumate said.