In a conference call today, Senator John Hoeven urged Omaha District Commander Col. Robert Ruch to address sandbars and other flow constrictions on the Missouri River ahead of next winter to prevent ice jams and potential flooding. Also on the call were the Omaha District's Chief of Hydrologic Engineering John Remus, Chief of the Planning Division Kayla Eckert Uptmor and North Dakota Water Commissioner Todd Sando. At Hoeven's request, Remus came to Bismarck last fall to review the situation and work on solutions with the state.
"This is a good case of where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Hoeven said. "The Corps needs to take concrete steps with the state and other federal agencies to implement a mitigation plan for the Bismarck-Mandan area this year, and also to develop a plan to prevent ice flows and flooding over the long term. That may involve dredging, paring down sandbars and adjusting flows to minimize risk, but they need to get it done."
Last year's record flood significantly changed the river and left large deposits of sand south of Bismarck-Mandan. Hoeven said he is concerned that sediment continues to build on both sides of the river, and these sandbars pose a real risk of ice jams and flooding as early as this winter. He pressed the Corps to use whatever resources and authority it has available to mitigate short-term risk this year and also to implement a plan to reduce long-term risk.
In the short term, Hoeven asked the Corps to work with the state to take steps such as dredging, lowering sandbars and developing an agreed upon flow plan to minimize the risk of ice jams and flooding. He also asked the Corps to expedite permitting and reduce red tape.
Additionally, Col. Ruch said he will seek to expedite approval from a special task force appointed under Title Seven of the River Protection and Improvement Act to move ahead on a long-term plan to control and remove sediment from the Missouri River and protect recreation on the Missouri River from sedimentation.
Hoeven has scheduled a follow-up call next Monday to assess the Corps' progress on all three points.