Along the Midwest’s big rivers, hundreds of miles of levees protect people and property. But when water surged into the Missouri River last month, the levees crumbled — exposing an ageing, insufficient flood protection system. And with heavy rain expected until the end of May, more flooding is due.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been scrambling to patch the broken levees before the rivers rise again — but gaping holes are still unfilled. Right now, the Army Corps isn’t sure if it will attempt to repair the broken levees, or look to develop new flood control systems entirely.
Last months floods were the most intense the Army Corps has ever seen in the midwest. “It’s immense,” Bret Budd, Army Corps Chief of Omaha District Systems Restoration Team, told VICE News. “The word that keeps going in my mind, the adjective I use, is that it’s biblical. It’s a biblical flood for us. It is going to tax the resources of everybody around. We have over 500 miles of levee to provide to reduce the risk of flooding. Of those 500 miles we had over 50 breaches.”
In 1936 Congress assigned the task of flood flood protection on to the Army Corps of Engineers. It built levees, dikes and dams along thousands of miles of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The levees stopped flooding, but made the rivers straighter, deeper, and more powerful — which contributed to a 20% increase in the risk of a 100-year flood.
So building higher barriers as climate change intensifies rainfall, could make future flooding worse.
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