Industry

Flooding Shows Value of U.S. Infrastructure

The Army Corps reported Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 15 Rock Island crested at 22.7 feet, a record high in the Quad Cities representing more than 40 days of continual flooding. The previous all-time high was 22.6 feet recorded on July 9, 1993. The flood events shed light on the U.S. waterways systems and the need for infrastructure investment. Although weather events are unavoidable, the impacts can be minimized with proper maintenance of the waterways. Proper maintenance includes funds for dredging, dike building, flood control, lock repairs, wetland creation, and much more.  So far, the flood damage in 2019 to the upper Mississippi River has been much lower than when levies collapsed in 1993.

As Lee W. Larson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported in his paper, The Great USA Flood of 1993, on June 28, 1996:

From May through September of 1993, major and/or record flooding occurred in the Mississippi River basin across the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Fifty flood deaths occurred, and damages approached $15 billion (15,000 million U.S. dollars). Hundreds of levees failed along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

The magnitude and severity of this flood event was simply overwhelming, and it ranks as one of the greatest natural disasters ever to hit the United States of America. Approximately 600 river forecast points in the Midwestern United States were above flood stage at the same time. Nearly 150 major rivers and tributaries were affected. It was certainly the largest and most significant flood event ever to occur in the United States.   

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated, some never to return to their homes. At least 10,000 homes were totally destroyed, hundreds of towns were impacted with at least 75 towns totally and completely under floodwaters. At least 15 million acres of farmland were inundated, some of which may not be useable for years to come.

Transportation was severely impacted. Barge traffic on the Missouri and  Mississippi Rivers was stopped for nearly 2 months. Bridges were out or not accessible on the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa, downstream to St. Louis, Missouri. On the Missouri River, bridges were out from Kansas City, downstream to St. Charles, Missouri. Interstate highways 35, 70, and 29 were closed.  Ten commercial airports were flooded. All railroad traffic in the Midwest was halted. Numerous sewage treatment and water treatment plants were impacted.

So far in 2019, Nebraska and Missouri have experienced approximately $3 billion in damages. The floodwall and restoration of natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and marshes that can collect floodwater have prevented Iowa and Illinois from major flooding despite setting a record high water level at Rock Island, Illinois this month.

The Army Corps of Engineers will always be criticized if for no other reason than its mandate far exceeds its budget. As of now, due to the Army Corps of Engineers, when comparing the 2019 flood to the flooding in 1993, the flood damage and loss of human life is much lower.

Alan Barrett
Alan Barrett

Director of Consulting

Farm Journal

Alan Barrett is Doane’s project consultant and accomplished commodity economist with more than 25 years of experience in futures and cash markets with a focus on cotton, commodity projects, non-traditional agricultural products, transportation and supply chain studies. Alan spent six years as a commodity futures broker. His expertise encompasses feasibility studies of oilseed crushing plants (soybean canola, and cottonseed), grain elevators, export elevators, shuttle elevators, grain container operations, flourmills and other processing facilities. Alan also has conducted transportation supply chain studies for grains, oilseeds, fertilizer, coal, natural gas, crude oil, and petroleum products. Alan has considerable experience in non-traditional agricultural products such as coal, coke, natural gas, chemicals, hydraulic fracturing fluid, hydraulic fracturing proppants, glycerin, fertilizer, micronutrients, salt, limestone, cement, iron ore, pig iron, and steel, especially feed ingredients. Mr. Barrett has a BS and MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of Tennessee.