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Residents affected by flooding critical of Corp of Engineers actions

Posted at 9:22 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 14:01:21-04

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Leaders from Elwood, Kansas met with evacuees Friday at a St. Joseph, Missouri, church to provide an update.

At that same meeting, some residents questioned the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers' actions so far.

"They really haven’t been accurate about the water that they’re letting loose," said Sherry Bennett, a life long Elwood resident. "I think they should be letting water out all year long instead of waiting for the thaw."

Several politicians already have weighed in.

"We need to reevaluate what our priorities are for the Corps of Engineers," Missouri Governor Mike Parson told reporters Thursday at news conference.

On Friday, 41 Action News spoke with the commander who oversees the Kansas City region of the federal agency and asked: could this be prevented in the future?

"I think that’s a tough question to answer," Col. Douglas Guttormsen, commander for the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said. "There is no preparation that we could have made in my mind that would have allowed us to contain the volume of water that we had in this particular event."

The colonel said they triggered their plan of action locally late last week. But by then there was only so much they could do.

"A lot of rain and a lot of snow in a pretty short period of time in an area that was not controlled by the corp of engineers' dams and reservoirs," Guttormsen said. "It flowed unregulated into the system."

Right now, the agency's focus is helping devastated communities recover, but Guttormsen added that there are several projects underway in the region to improve long-term flood protection.

"At the end of the day, it’s a discussion between all of the partners — the federal, the state and local partners to make sure that we know where the best place to invest our resources and invest in a good way," Guttormsen said.

The Corp of Engineers is confident levees surrounding the Kansas City metro will hold up and spare the metro the flooding that communities in northwest Missouri have experienced.