Rounds: The Corps screwed up; Mercer: Don't be so quick to blame the Corps

In an earlier post, I confessed my knee-jerk training to blame the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the flooding along the Missouri River.  Former Gov. Mike Rounds shares this view,  along with his close up view of the flood waters in his front yard…..

“I really think the corps of engineers screwed up,” Rounds said.

Rounds isn’t pointing the finger at those on the local level, saying he believes they’ve tried to make changes. But he does say someone should have known an unprecedented event was coming, and someone should have done something a lot sooner.

“The Army Corps of Engineering’s primary responsibility is flood control along the Missouri River, I think they messed it up this time,” Rounds said.

However, veteran and sage reporter Bob Mercer has some words of caution for this attitude and facts to back it up including that the Corps released more water from the dams last fall than almost any previous year.  He also points to the record snowfall and rainfall — way beyond forecasted — as well as the early flooding on the Mississippi that hampered efforts to control water levels by releasing more water from the upstream dams earlier this spring.

I hate when facts get in the way of a good blame game…..

For photos of the flooding — check out the Capital Journal’s website and flickr photostream

26 Replies to “Rounds: The Corps screwed up; Mercer: Don't be so quick to blame the Corps”

  1. Duh

    I have questions about that also. Then again, what do we know about USACE compacs with other states, could they have released if they wanted to? When would have been the earliest they could have released, i.e. you cannot release downstream when the downstream locations still have ice. Frankly, I think they could have starting increasing the release about 6 weeks earlier. Nonetheless, if the Corps doesn’t want blame, they should state their reasons for their timing rather than foreseen, unforeseens.

    1. Kristi Golden

      I’ve heard that there was also criticism of the Corps when they upped the releases earlier this spring because of negative results for fish spawning…..I’m beginning to see the Corps in the proverbial no-win situation.

    2. Les

      Whats ice got to do with anything Duh, few below us have much ice.

      Regardless of our thoughts, the Corp has all the latest and greatest equipment to do a better job than they have shown in the past. They are not in a no win either KG, they pretty much do as they please most of the time.

      They were running a smaller dam that had little of its own flood potential as hard as they could several weeks ago to lower the level and rip rap a shoreline, on top of all the water they would be sending south, something that could be done any time.

      1. Name

        I think Duh was referring to ice below the headwaters of the Missouri. You know where that is don’t you Les? Ice and flooding is not a good deal.

      1. interestedpartyblog

        Nice try, grud. My work is all posted at ip. Two Corps spokespersons were on Bill Janklow’s idea of public radio today. Governors share the blame for the way the Master Manual is implemented.

        ip is Newland for District 30.

        1. Name

          He just happens to be making enough noise to sound sympathetic to voters. I’m not saying he planned it but he’s taking advantage of it.

  2. Bob Mercer

    For the record, that column was written early Friday morning, before I knew anything about Mike Rounds or any other current or former official publicly criticizing the corps.

    1. Kristi Golden

      I stand clarified Bob. So, would knowing of public officials criticism of the Corps changed your story in anyway?

  3. SDMike

    Haven’t heard about the Barge Traffice industry complaining about not enough water – one good thing about the flood – just saying!

  4. Name

    The parable is worth sharing?.
    Fable of the porcupine
    It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions. After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the warmth that came from the others. This way they were able to survive. Moral of the story: The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.

    The real moral of the story……LEARN TO LIVE WITH THE PRICKS IN YOUR LIFE.

  5. Name

    Why was there such a lag in the State’s efforts between when the efforts started in Pierre and when they started down river? I’m guessing the people downriver would have appreciated the same effort…just earlier.

    The Argus did a story on the breakdown in communications. Was that the case, or was it just that the media didn’t cover what was happening in Yankton and the Dunes.

    The SD congressional delegation made their way to the disaster zones, but did any of them commit to making sure federal relief made its way back home? Did any of them say they would fight Eric Cantor on his pledge to deny federal assistance to natural disaster areas?

    Kristi, glad you are cutting the ACE a little slack.

    And just for fun, did the Governor’s office ever get back to Frank Kloucek’s questions? Would have loved to been able to hear that one.

    1. Name

      Eric Cantor is not one of my favorites amongst the GOP leadership. I really like Paul Ryan but I do not particularly like Cantor. He seems very calculating.

      That idea was a stupid idea he had regarding disasters and I’m not sure he meant it the way it was taken but it was stupid none the less.

  6. Name

    In all fairness, was the Army Corp of Engineers given a chance to comment on Governor Rounds decision to build on the river? Nah, they wouldn’t take the bait.

  7. CaveMan

    By listening to the CORP respond to negative comments the only assumption one can take is they were instructed to be overexemplifying regret and kindness or stand on the plank.

    1. Name

      I’m going to guess that the Corp will just stay silent rather than point any fingers of blame no matter how well deserved. They have probably accepted that this won’t be the first or last time political types have used them, as Kristi called it, a whipping boy.

  8. Name

    I’m curious as to why any of our elected officials need to be down there at the disaster sites unless they are the Governor who has to make he decisions.

    We are really blessed by many great people in our state doing so much to help one another in need.

  9. feasant

    The Corps is a perfect example of big Government, one word explains it best, BAD. Anyone that was in SD or ND could see we had a lot of snow (trying to be politically correct) on the Plains. The Corps made a huge eror, they should have sent some water downstream in Jan, Feb or March, now they have no choice.

    They should be held accountable, we should demand to see the names of people who were let go. The Corps is run by incompetant imbedded morons.

    1. donkephant

      You do know that the Corps was making record releases this whole past year, right? I also would hope you know that no one, not even the weatherman, could have predicted we’d get SO much rain in such a short amount of time. Despite record releases this past year (because believe it or not they’re smart enough to take things like snowfall into account), the combination of existing flooding downstream in the Mississippi inhibiting the corps from releasing even more water & so much rain in such a small amount of time resulted in a very sad natural disaster. Good thing most South Dakotan’s like to lend a helping hand.
      Looks like you just wanted to jump on the blame game train.


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