U.S. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., is the latest Missouri lawmaker to speak out on the 2011 Missouri River flood disaster. Luetkemeyer testified earlier this week in Washington, D.C., at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment about funding disparities between the protection of river communities and habitat restoration and land acquisition.
Luetkemeyer testified in support of legislation from U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., that would elevate flood control as the top priority for the management of the Missouri River and delete fish and wildlife as an authorized purpose.
"One can't help but take notice of the significant disparity of funding for habitat restoration and land acquisition and funding dedicated to operations and maintenance," Luetkemeyer said. "A tremendous emphasis has been placed on habitat restoration and compliance with the Endangered Species Act instead of on the protection of life and property."
In his fiscal year 2012 budget request, President Obama sought more than $72 million dollars for the Missouri River Recovery Program to help fund environmental restoration studies and projects while just $6.1 million was requested for the entire operations and maintenance fund of the Missouri River.
Luetkemeyer is a member of the House Missouri River Working Group, created earlier this year in part to highlight the gross disparity between funding for endangered species and ecosystem restoration, and funding for operations and maintenance of flood control systems. The group requested the Nov. 30 hearing.
The House Missouri River Working Group was created by U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (SD). Luetkemeyer and Missouri U.S. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, Jo Ann Emerson, Todd Akin, Lacy Clay, Sam Graves, Russ Carnahan, Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long serve on the panel. Also serving on the panel are U.S. Reps. Rick Berg of North Dakota, Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry of Nebraska, Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Steve King and Tom Latham of Iowa, and Denny Rehberg of Montana.
Luetkemeyer also serves as the second vice president of the Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association, furthering his ability to serve as a critical voice for Missouri's river communities on national issues including flood control, bank stabilization, navigation and major drainage problems.
An in-depth report on the 2011 Missouri River flood disaster is featured in the December issue of Missouri Ruralist.