KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Missouri River is more than 2,300 miles long. American Rivers, an environmental conservation organization group, said the lower half of the river is one of the most endangered rivers in the country. It sits at number two on the group’s annual list, the same ranking it received in 2020.
The group cites climate change and poor flood management as the major threats. Dams in the upper part of the river and the extensive levee system built along its banks are causes for the river’s problems. Levees have been breeched countless times in recent years, flooding farmland and threatening communities along the river. The extensive flooding has caused billions of dollars in damages.
The organization says state and local governments need to create new ways to address flood control and recreation needs while protecting wildlife along the riverbanks.
The Army Corps of Engineers oversees more than 300 levee systems on the Missouri River alone. They can be found along the lower Missouri River in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
Some Missouri farmers have sued the Corps of Engineers in the past over the way it controlled the river. There are also levees that need to be repaired from massive flooding in 2019. The issues were expected to take at least two years to complete.
The status of levees varies greatly. In Iowa and Nebraska, many of the major levees have been patched, although some breaches remain open. In Kansas and Missouri, much of the repair work has yet to begin.
Part of the problem is that the water remained high for so long in some areas that officials couldn’t even assess some of the damage until the spring of 2020.