by Ghost of John Brown
I love dams. I grew up in the shadow of one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the State of Kansas. If you want to divert my attention, turn the TV channel to Discovery or the History Channel with a show on the Hoover Dam. The dams that were built in the 1930's - 1960's were massive accomplishments to man's ingenuity. Because of their construction, thousands of lives have been saved and billions of dollars of damage have been avoided.
So it is with a great degree of head shaking that I see what has become of the US Army Corps (note to President Obama - that is pronounced "core" not "corpse") of Engineers and their mismanagement of our Nation's river systems. It is that mismanagement and bowing to the environmentalists that has caused the flooding in North and South Dakota this year.
The dams that were constructed in the midwest, unlike the dams in the west, were constructed mainly to meter flooding from Spring rains and/or the melt-water that happens in the Spring. In my own home state of Kansas, the great flood of 1951 created the need to build about a dozen or so dams across Kansas. The 1951 flood caused the Kansas River to be a mile-wide torrent.
The dams that have been built in the midwest were generally constructed to serve dual purposes. During normal flow times, they are used a recreational lakes. During heavy flow times, they store massive amounts of water and reduce the flow downstream to lower the risk of flooding. THAT IS WHY THEY WERE BUILT!!!! They were constructed specifically to stop the damage from floods like the ones shown in the photo above. With that expectation, local communities like Minot, ND built levees to keep the expected floodwater from destroying towns.
I'm guessing that just about everyone has heard about the floods that are currently ravaging the State of North Dakota. What you may not realize, is that a significant amount of the problem is completely man made.
See the excellent article in the American Thinker - click here.
Instead of allowing the large reservoirs to function the way that they were originally intended, the US Army Corps of Engineers has fallen prey to environmentalists that essentially want all of the rivers to act the way that they did before the dams were constructed. Instead of drawing down the reservoirs ahead of the melt-water so the dams would have the ability to store water the Corps has metered the flow to protect habitat.
Consequently, the Fort Peck Dam upstream of Minot, ND, which has received the most press lately for the flooding, is releasing water close to capacity, and the Oahe Dam is releasing 150,000 cubic feet of water per second and the dam is within several inches of the top of the spillway.
In a series of e-mails that the Fort Pierre South Dakota Public Works director sent to a variety of officials, he warned that this would happen.........back in February. He was worried about the snowpack. As you can see from the graphic below, he was justified in his concern (source - USGS).
So how did the US Army Corps of Engineers handle the situation? Here's a summary of the flows in the Fort Peck Dam. Information take from the Omaha Office of the US Army Corps of Engineers - click here. (click on "Reports and Publications - then "Monthly Reservoir Summaries")
Here is the same information for the Oahe Dam in South Dakota
As you can see, the Corps of Engineers did almost nothing until it was too late. They allowed the Fort Peck reservoir to rise over 13 feet before they appreciably increased the outflow from the dam. At this point, the reservoir is essentially at full capacity, meaning that it has no more flood control capacity. From it's normal water level of 2234.00 feet above mean sea level to its flood control capacity of 2250.00 feet (note they have already surpassed that), Fort Peck Lake will store 4 million acre-feet of water and the Oahe Reservoir has approximately the same flood control storage. Wouldn't that flood control capacity come in handy right about now?
This was an almost completely avoidable problem. Once again, environmentalists have chosen birds over man.
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