In a May 5th guest article in the Des Moines Register, Senator Joni Ernst blamed the Army Corps of Engineers for lack of timely warning prior to the epic Missouri River flooding. She claimed we need better communication and warning about potential flood risk. Ernst’s call for more communication is in sharp contrast to her refusal to engage in the debate about the cause of these extreme weather events.
Iowa climate scientists have been warning for years about the increasing flood risk to Iowa. Iowa now ranks fourth in the nation in the number of floods since 1988. With record-setting flooding in Iowa cities on both the Mississippi (the current flood crest in Davenport exceeded the 1993 record) and Missouri Rivers, it would seem a conversation is past due on the underlying cause of this increased Iowa flooding.
Since Ernst’s election, Iowa climate groups have repeatedly attempted to engage her in a conversation about the increased flood risk to Iowa. They have been rebuffed with Ernst’s non-answer, “the climate has been changing for centuries.”
Now both Ernst and Chuck Grassley are accusing the Corps of mismanagement rather than their own lack of action in addressing the climate connections contributing to massive flooding. They suggested the Corps wasn’t placing flood control as the top priority in managing the dams on the Missouri River. Both Ernst and Grassley made this wild accusation as the Corps officials described the enormity of the March flood.
The Corps officials explained that had all the dams on the river been empty prior to the bomb cyclone weather event, they still would have been overwhelmed by the immense volume of water. The combination of rapid snow melt and additional rain on frozen ground produced a record-breaking 11 million acre-feet of flood water. That surpassed the previous record set in 1952 of 7 million acre-feet by 51%. It wasn’t mismanagement; it was a flood that totally overwhelmed the Corps infrastructure of dams and levees along the river.
Ernst said flooding shouldn’t be such a regular occurrence along the Missouri River. “The trend of flood and rebuild, flood and rebuild must end.”
Ernst is correct, but refuses to look beyond pointing fingers and blaming the Corps for a weather event far beyond their control. If Ernst is serious about ending the flood and rebuild cycle, she must acknowledge that a changing climate is contributing to these extreme weather events. If she wants better communication, she must engage in the climate change conversation. Based on her remarks following the Corps-blaming meeting, she made it clear she isn’t yet willing to have that conversation.
Following that April 17 flood review meeting with the Corps, she was asked again about having a conversation about the climate changes that contribute to increased Iowa flooding. She said that conversation has to occur but “further down the road.”
If she really believes in better communication about flood risk, she can’t continue to ignore, deny, and refuse to discuss how Iowa’s changing climate is putting Iowans at greater risk.
Ernst’s stubborn rejection of accepted climate science about enhanced flooding, and refusing to engage in the conversation, should be an automatic disqualifier for reelection. Can Iowa afford to have a Senator that blames others for the causes of Iowa flooding and rejects the advice of flood experts?
by Rick Smith