Committee Field Hearing Highlights Economic Consequences of Missouri River Management Decisions

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Washington, Aug 21, 2013 | comments
The Small Business Committee, led by Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), today held a field hearing in St. Joseph, Missouri, examining management of the Missouri River and the effects on small businesses.

“The Missouri River is a significant resource not only for our region, but nationally,” said Chairman Graves. “Small businesses that depend on the river for their livelihoods need a well-managed river to plan for their futures. Floods or navigation problems can cause severe setbacks for farms or other small businesses. As the 2011 floods demonstrate, the Army Corps of Engineers is attempting to manage too many competing priorities, making accomplishing any of them a challenge. Instead, the river should be managed to provide the most economic benefit to the most stakeholders throughout the Missouri River system.

“We appreciate this informative testimony from those directly affected by the river and management decisions,” Graves continued.  “The economic health of communities along the river deserves better consideration from the Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service. I appreciate that the Corps of Engineers testified today, but I am disappointed that the Fish and Wildlife Service chose not to participate, as many of the regulations that complicate the river’s management are influenced by objectives pursued by the agency. The decisions of federal agencies have real world economic consequences for rural communities. We must make sure the Missouri River remains an economic asset and major resource for the people throughout the Missouri River Basin.”

The United States Army Corps of Engineers is the federal agency authorized to operate and manage the Missouri River System for the purposes of flood control, irrigation, water supply, power, navigation, protecting water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife, collectively referred to as “authorized purposes.” The goal of the hearing was to hear from small businesses regarding which authorized purposes are most important to their economic well-being, as well as solicit their input on whether changes to federal statutes governing Missouri River System management practices are necessary to maximize the potential economic benefits of the river and its tributaries to small businesses and rural communities. 

Graves recently discussed his efforts to promote economic growth and opportunity for towns along the river in a May Op-Ed in the St. Joseph News-Press. In the piece, Graves discussed his current legislative proposals to allow the Corps to better focus on flood control and navigation.  He also spoke of his support for the U.S. Department of Transportation to designate the river from Kansas City to Sioux City, Iowa, as a Marine Highway corridor, to open up new possibilities for shipping and navigation.

Materials for the hearing are posted on the House Small Business Committee’s website HERE.

Notable Quotes:

Lanny Frakes, Owner, L & R Farms, Rushville, MO, said, “Small businesses in the economic chain, from the farmer to the small businesses he impacts, rely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide critical flood control along the Missouri River. Flooding has huge impacts on small businesses and the economy.  Because floods are so devastating, flood control is one of the greatest needs for communities and small businesses impacted by Missouri River operations.”

Jody Farhat, Chief, Missouri River Management Division, Northwestern Division, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha, NE, said, “The Corps is charged with responsibly managing this complex and extensive system for eight authorized purposes: flood control, navigation, irrigation, hydropower, water quality control, water supply, recreation, and fish and wildlife enhancement. In addition, operation of the System must also comply with other applicable federal statutory and regulatory requirements, including the Endangered Species Act. All of the citizens we serve in the Missouri River Basin benefit in one or more ways from this system.”

Kathy Kunkel, Clerk, Holt County, Oregon, MO, said, “I would encourage you to define the future of the Missouri River Basin with a focus on the 2011 flood’s lasting impacts on the agricultural community and small businesses of the lower Missouri River. Changes in the management practices for the Missouri River Basin must come now and with it must be a renewed focus on the people utilizing the bounty in the floodplain with a specific focus on flood control and navigation.”

Jason Gregory, Owner, Gregory Farm, Hemple, MO, said, “…[W]e don’t need more experiments, mosquitoes or publicly-owned land in the Missouri River Basin. We must minimize the effects of weather extremes by protecting lives and infrastructure, make wise investments in the BSNP and the inland waterway system, and manage flows for human needs, and where possible, enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat.”

Joel Euler, Attorney, South Side Levee District, Troy, KS, said, “…[T]he District believes that unless flood control was made the primary emphasis of the operation of the Missouri River system, at some point flooding and high water events will occur with such frequency and have such an impact on businesses of all sizes that the real estate located behind the levee structures will no longer be a viable location for businesses to locate thus causing a negative impact to the community.”

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