The 1995 Flood

"Here We Go Again!" was the headline on the front page of the newspaper. In a May that saw too much rain, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers were on the rise in a replay of the Great Flood of 1993. Airports were evacuated, highways were closed and those unfortunate enough to live or work in the floodplain packed their bags. Volunteers were back in many of the same places they had been two years ago, filling and stacking sandbags.

Hermann's annual Maifest was canceled because of flooding. In other towns, local gauges showed the 1995 flood was actually inches higher than the 1993 flood. The 500-year-flood was back ... and only 2 years had passed since the last one. Most of the farm levees that had been rebuilt in the past two years were again topped or breached.

Some of the repairs made after the 1993 flood may have made the 1995 flood worse. The little town of Lupus is located on the Missouri River southwest of Columbia. Mayor Doug Elley contends a "mega-levee" built at a site called Plow Boy Bend downstream of his town, would have raised flood stages in Lupus had the river gone any higher. In a letter to the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Elley questioned the valuations that justified building the levee back higher than before.

Management of the Missouri and Mississippi river floodplains is vexing. Farmers can and should use this most-fertile-of-all-land. Developers in urban counties look at all the open space along the river and see an ideal industrial site for their next project. The drive to use this land is understandable, but what is the increasing frequency of these floods telling us?

Norm Stucky, an environmental coordinator with the Conservation Department, says the 1995 flood may be the second highest on record, and some locations had more damage and higher river stages than in 1993. "There have been five major floods on the Missouri River in the last 20 years. Now 20 percent less water gives us a 6-foot higher stage - the floodplain is so restricted that the river no longer has the natural capacity to handle floods."

The battle over levee construction has pitted community against community and state against state. Still, the rivers refuse to be tamed.

After the 1993 floods a series of suggestions for partial restoration of natural floodways to help reduce future flood stages was made public.