Work is underway to repair damage to the Missouri River’s navigation channel. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District Commander, Col. Bill Hannan, says three years of high water as well as widespread flooding have left damage in their wake, threatening barge season on the Missouri River.

St. Joseph Port (Photo courtesy of Brent Martin of KFEQ)

“The flood of 2019 also, along with devastating a lot of levees along the river, created about $200 million in damages to navigation structures,” Hannan tells Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph. “And so, what has happened in the last three weeks is the river levels have returned to normal, they’re not low, they’re just normal service levels that we would see, but because of all that damage to navigation structures, it’s creating shallow spots in the navigation channel on the river.”

While the Corps estimates the damage at $200 million, it has only $20 million in its budget to make repairs.

The Corps says all that water rushing down the Missouri River the last three years, including the widespread flooding of last year, damaged half to three-quarters of the 7,000 river training structures on the lower Missouri River.

Money isn’t the only problem. It takes time to fully scour the Missouri River channel and return it to its authorized nine-foot by 300-foot condition.

Hannan isn’t looking to Congress for more money. He points out Congress has already made its allocation to repair damage done by disasters throughout the country last year, including the devastation Missouri River flooding did to the Midwest last year.

“We are now trying to find every piece of money we can in the Corps of Engineers to see if we can apply some more resources to fix some of these problems on the river,” Hannan says.

He says Corps crews as well as contractor crews are doing their best to guide barges away from the damaged areas of the navigation channel while awaiting repair.

Hannan understands the importance of barge traffic with harvest fast approaching.

“We are doing absolutely everything we can to not let the barge traffic stop, because we know the agricultural community is really dependent to move their goods and the fall harvest here,” Hannan says. “So, we’re going to give 100% effort in the Corps of Engineers to do everything we can to keep that traffic moving.”

By Brent Martin of KFEQ in St. Joseph