The Master Water Control Manual is the bible of the Missouri River basin dam system. It defines the duties and protocols to be followed in order to best meet the various needs represented in the list of priorities.
From the completion of the dam construction (in 1967) until 2004, the Master Water Control Manual listed the priority functions in order of importance, with flood control being number one.
1) flood control
2) irrigation and upstream beneficial uses
3) downstream water supply
4) navigation and power
5) recreation and wildlife
In 2004, under pressure from environmentalist organizations who had been lobbying hard for the previous decade, Congress approved a revision to the manual that no longer specifically prioritized the uses of the system, leaving the order of the functions to the discretion of the Corps of Engineers.
. . .
The “engineers,” guided by the Endangered Species Act, not the Flood Control Act, bank water throughout the fall and winter, preparing to release it in spring to mimic nature with a sort of controlled flood.
Sometimes they get away with the gamble, but other times nature intrudes on their Gaia-worshiping skit and provides a stark reminder that “playing God” and “being God” are quite different things, indeed. Nature lets loose with the real thing in the form of heavy snowfalls, heavier than normal rains, or a super-thaw from a rapid increase in temperatures and a wind-driven warm rainfall that rid thousands of square miles of an average three feet of snowpack in roughly 36 hours, as happened last week. And once again, the faux gods were caught short.
Did the Corp cause the current flooding? In my opinion, no. However, it greatly contributed to its severity in numerous ways, not the least of which is its influence on the management of smaller tributary rivers and streams throughout the basin — the very rivers and streams that are presently roaming miles from their banks. The primary reason the Corps deserves a major share of responsibility is its mismanagement of the dam system. Had they been drawing down water throughout the early winter in anticipation of a higher than normal runoff due to higher than normal snow accumulations in the lower reaches of the basin, then the tributaries presently flooding would have had more room to drain through their natural outlet, the mighty Missouri river.
Would it have eliminated the flooding we see destroying farms, homes, and roads on our televisions (or right outside our own windows!)? Not entirely, no. However, it is unarguable that managing the Missouri River mainstem dams with an eye toward flood control above all else would have greatly minimized the severity of the event.
There’s more at the link.
Can more knowledgeable readers enlighten us? Are such revised policies and/or environmentalist agendas contributing to the current flooding situation, or is it just the result of a more-wet-than-usual winter season?