Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) yesterday fought off attempts by Republicans in the House of Representatives to sneak a controversial piece of legislation into law that could have resulted in more flooding and damage in St. Louis.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Unusually heavy rains [last year] in Montana and North Dakota coupled with the melting of deep snow in the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains pushed the Missouri River system to record capacity." This excess capacity then created widespread damage downstream, including in St. Louis.
S. 2039, characterized as "a bill to allow a State or local government to construct levees on certain properties otherwise designated as open space lands," would have allowed authorities in North Dakota to build levees along the Missouri River to avoid flooding in that state. The decreased capacity of the riverbed would have likely resulted in floods downstream; including St. Louis.
The bill was slated to come before the House Tuesday afternoon under "suspension of the rules." This type of vote allows for quick consideration of a piece of legislation, often by voice vote only. Without a Democrat to oppose the bill, Republicans would have been able to sneak this legislation, which has passed the Senate, through the House and onto President Obama's desk.
Congressman Carnahan stood against the bill and was willing to debate Republican Leadership on its merits and force a recorded vote. House Leadership was unwilling to allow that vote that would have put Members on record in favor of downstream flooding, so the bill was removed from the House floor.
"I will fight any legislation that encourages the potential for increased flooding in St. Louis," said Carnahan. "Too many families were devastated by last years floods. Too many businesses saw their shops and inventory destroyed by rising flood waters. Too much money was spent repairing damage to the city that could have been avoided if everyone upstream took responsibility for their part of the River. As well, there was staggering damage done to local ecosystems. I refuse to let that happen again."
Floods are the most frequently occurring natural disaster in the United States. Last year, Big Lake and Lewis & Clark State Parks were underwater for several weeks during severe flooding along the Missouri River. Floods along the Missouri River destroyed basic infrastructure of state parks.
Average annual U.S. flood losses in the past 10 years totaled nearly $3 billion.