Vilsack says Army Corps river management must be “more flexible”

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April 21st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is suggesting the Army Corps of Engineers should be more nimble in responding to weather events that impact the agency’s management of the Missouri River. “It would be well for the Army Corps to be more attentive to the needs and to listen more closely to the concerns along the river systems. I think there’s a tendency for the Army Corps to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got the answer,’” Vilsack says. “You know, you really have to have better dialogue and better communication with folks.”

Farmers and others along the Missouri River have complained about the way the Corps managed the release of water from upstream dams last year — leading to massive, long-term flooding along the river corridor. Vilsack says the Corps needs to build “more flexibility” into its management plan for the Missouri. “When they saw record snowfalls and snowpack, there should have been, ‘Hey, how does this fit into our overall strategy and does it still fit and does it still work?’” Vilsack says. “We’re seeing more extreme weather conditions and I think that put the emphasis and a requirement on all of us to constantly rethink whether or not our assumptions were correct in whatever plan we’ve developed.”

Vilsack says the Corps should “be more engaged” in an on-going review of its management plan for the Missouri or any other river. “Not just well, ‘Well, we’ve done this plan and we’ve put a lot of effort into it and we can park that plan and we can just work that plan because it’s the right plan,’” Vilsack says. “Well, maybe it was the right plan at the time. Who knows? But you now have changing weather conditions and you should be saying, ‘Does this plan still fit?’” Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, made his comments Friday, during and after taping of an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program, which airs Sunday.

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)