Senators from Missouri joined counterparts from Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska to introduce legislation Thursday overhauling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ process for managing water resource projects along the lower Missouri River system. The senators wish to establish a new program that would require the Corps to implement a system-wide approach to water development projects to reduce flood risk and improve flood protection along the river. Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt says the bill gives the Corps the “ability to develop a comprehensive system plan to design and build critical flood control projects that will do a better job of protecting people and property.” Lawmakers say the proposal provides greater efficiencies and streamlining with regard to how the Corps plans for and manages Missouri River water resource development projects from inception to completion.

The bill comes as forecasters expect another above-average runoff year along the Missouri River. Current conditions, including soil moisture, plains and mountain snowpack, as well as long-term temperature and precipitation outlooks, forecast runoff for the upper Missouri River basin above Sioux City to be almost 37 million acre-feet, about 43 percent above average. Releases from the Gavins Point Dam were decreased this week to 35-thousand cubic feet per second, as tributaries downstream began to rise because of melting snowpack in South Dakota. The potential for above-average runoff in the upper basin, coupled with continued high river stages on many of the uncontrolled tributaries downstream of the reservoir system, increases the potential for flooding. Many farmers along the Missouri River are still recovering from floodwaters that began arriving this time a year ago.