Army Corps of Engineers: protecting human life is top priority with flood control

Cropped Photo: Richard Masoner / CC BY-SA 2.0 (MGN)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Latest on a U.S. Senate hearing being held in Iowa in the wake of massive flooding in the region (all times local):

10:37 a.m.

Officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say flood control and protecting human life are their top priorities anytime flooding is imminent along the Missouri River.

The Corps' John Remus says the agency that manages the dams along the Missouri River could not have prevented the flooding along the river this spring because of the large amount of water that flowed into the river downstream of the dams.

But critics of the agency say the other priorities for the river, such as protecting endangered species, seem to work against flood control.

Farmer Leo Ettleman said the Corps should have made significant changes to its operating manual after the historic 2011 floods, but neither the Corps nor Congress took action.

Ettlemen says the kind of flooding the area saw this spring will continue unless changes are made.

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9:20 a.m.

The federal agency that manages dams along the Missouri River received stern criticism from several U.S. senators at the start of a hearing examining this year's flooding.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said during Wednesday's hearing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to do a better job of preventing flooding.

Ernst says continuing the cycle of flooding and rebuilding over and over is unacceptable.

Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the Corps is too slow and too bureaucratic, and that it doesn't have enough money to complete needed preventative projects. Gillibrand also said Congress needs to get past partisan fighting, especially when it comes to disaster aid.

The Wednesday hearing is being held in Glenwood, Iowa, after spring flooding along the Missouri River caused more than $3 billion in damage in the region.

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12 a.m.

This spring's massive flooding along the Missouri River unearthed bitter criticism of the federal agency that manages the river while devastating communities and causing more than $3 billion in damage.

The flooding and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' actions will be the focus of a U.S. Senate hearing in western Iowa on Wednesday and critics will demand the agency make flood control its top priority. But Congress would have to act to change the Corps' priorities.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says the current river management policy needs to be fixed.

That sentiment is appealing in flood-damaged Midwestern states, but it may not be as popular with supporters of the Corps' other priorities such as protecting endangered species.