Missouri River senators look for answers from the Government Accountability Office

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Missouri News Horizon
-- Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill are among a group of D.C. lawmakers asking the Government Accountability Office to assess the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers performance in managing the river during the last 12 months.

The Missouri River Working Group, 14 senators from seven states that border the river, signed their names to a letter that asks the GAO to evaluate the corps’ actions in several areas, including whether or not the corps’ actions added to the severity of the flood, and whether or not the corps followed the river’s master manual in its management practices.

“The letter is a strong statement from senators from seven states along the Missouri River that we want the corps’ performance and plans to meet what the priorities are, and the top priority is supposed to be flood control,” Blunt said during a conference call with Missouri media members Thursday.  Blunt said it’s important to evaluate the corps’ efforts in 2011 and find out what the plans are for 2012.

The GAO is a non-partisan agency that works for Congress, conducting reviews of government programs as requested by legislators.

Blunt said he is frustrated by the lack of action by the Corps on a request by upstream states to continue to draw down the levels of upstream reservoirs to open up more space for storage of snow melt and any potential heavier than normal rainfall during the spring. The combination of those two factors, heavier than normal snow melt and heavier than normal rainfall, lead to the catastrophic flooding along the river over the spring and summer.

“Why would the corps not take that advice?” said Blunt. “There’s certainly no one in the southern part of the river that we live in that would be opposed to creating more storage capacity up river.”