OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - Governors from several states hit by massive Missouri River flooding this summer said on Monday they asked federal authorities to release more water now from a key reservoir to prevent future flooding.
The unprecedented request of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lower water levels in the reservoir above the Garrison Dam in North Dakota follows flood damage to communities, roads, bridges and farms from Montana through Missouri this year.
"We've all been hurt by the Missouri River," North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple told reporters after governors met with Corp officials. He suggested reducing the water level of the reservoir behind Garrison Dam by 2.5 feet.
The Corps could do this by releasing water downstream, where conditions have been fairly dry this fall, and the governors believe the increased water flow could be managed. The Corps did not immediately respond to the request.
Management of the Missouri River Valley, which makes up the northwest bowl of the larger Mississippi River basin, has long been a tug-of-war between assuring adequate water levels during dry years and flood prevention in wet years.
A wet fall last year, heavy winter snows and rainstorms across the upper reaches of the basin pushed reservoirs to capacity, prompting the Corps to release water from dams at rates about double previous records to relieve the pressure.
Governors from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota signed a letter encouraging Congress to review the Corps' 2011 Missouri River flood management performance.
It was the second meeting between states hit by Missouri River flooding and Corps officials. The first meeting was in August and another is planned.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman hosted the meeting attended by the governors of Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and North Dakota. Missouri and Montana governors participated by telephone and Wyoming sent senior staff members.
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)