Presidentially declared disaster areas along the Mississippi River will receive much needed repair funds under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act signed by President Obama on December 23. The Mississippi Valley Division will receive approximately $802 million of the $1.7 billion appropriated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Mississippi River and Tributaries System prevented more than $120 billion in damages during the Great Flood of 2011, the largest recorded flood in the river’s history.
"This funding represents a vital investment in the most valuable flood risk reduction system in our nation, perhaps in the world," said Maj. Gen. John Peabody, President Designee of the Mississippi River Commission and Mississippi Valley Division Commander. "Since the Mississippi River and Tributaries program was conceived in 1928, this comprehensive flood risk management system has earned its value many times over, representing over a $30 to $1 return on investment for American taxpayers today."
While damage assessments to levees and operating projects from the 2011 flood are still underway, engineers estimate that repair costs for currently documented damages in the Mississippi Valley region alone are approaching $1 billion. “We’ve made significant progress in assessing damages up and down the river system,” said Mr. Al Lee, Director of Business, "but this is an evolving process that will continue for some time."
"Although the Mississippi River valley flood risk management system performed as designed this past year, the record flood waters inflicted serious damages requiring costly and time-consuming repairs," said Mr. Robert Fitzgerald, Chief of Technical Engineering for the Mississippi Valley Division. He added that even with the new funding available, that it will take years to restore the system to its pre-flood conditions.
With current river stages significantly above normal and weather forecasts for a wetter-than-usual flood season, the Corps of Engineers is working the entire length of the river to prepare for the possibility of more flooding in the near term. The Corps will use the winter and spring seasons to advance plans and designs for repairs, so that it can optimize the construction of repairs once weather improves.
The effort to repair and restore the system will take time, energy, and cooperation with multiple agencies at all governmental levels. The Corps depends on the experience and expert knowledge contributed by its many partners at the local, state and federal levels. Maj. Gen. Peabody concluded that, "Together, as a team, we’ll be able to overcome the challenges from the 2011 flood while preparing for future floods. Our goal is to deliver what American citizens expect from the Corps of Engineers - reliable flood risk reduction.”