As the floodwaters recede in Nebraska and neighboring states, the damage estimates will be quantified—and more than likely they will grow into the billions of dollars—rest assured federal monies will arrive to help.

The question is how soon.

Unfortunately even in a non-election year the campaigning continues. One plan bogged down because Democratic senators said not enough aid was being set aside to help Puerto Rico from its epic Hurricane Maria in 2017 in which an estimated 3,000 people died.

The closer a disaster is to where one lives, the more central it becomes in your mindset. Southern farmers and wildfires in California are also part of a relief package. The mid-March storm, the storms in the South and wildfires in the West thankfully were not as tragic as Hurricane Maria, but the infrastructure it is going to take to help rebuild roads, communities and aid to farmers’ and ranchers’ livelihoods will be essential to a quicker recovery and restoring local economies.

Privately and publicly, officials in the Midwest say President Donald Trump is concerned about the damages and losses and has been listening. That’s a good sign from the commander-in-chief. Congress needs to step up too. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and farmer often praised for his stances on transparency and oversight, has correctly stated that all sides need to come together soon so the recovery can begin. In Iowa’s case, presidential candidates who opposed getting a deal done will be and should be asked tough questions on their stance, the senior senator said.

Disasters by Mother Nature should not be compounded by disasters in leadership.

This March’s flooding, which is occurring before spring and early summer rainfalls, has made many officials rightfully concerned about the rest of the year. Several lawmakers, including Rep. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican and a member of the House Agriculture Committee, have also said Congress should have hearings so  the Army Corps of Engineers can explain its policies of holding and releasing water particularly when excessive moisture last fall preceded a wet and cold winter. Those hearings will also be helpful in the oversight process.

Giving the corps the benefit of the doubt, the flood control system is a complicated system and also has multiple districts. In the High Plains region much of the water is directed ultimately to the Mississippi River.  Looking back, the Great Flood of 1993 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were also watershed moments. Mother Nature competes against the complicated nature of mankind, who has many diverse interests upstream and downstream—controlling the water, irrigation, fishing and wildlife and shipping.

The purpose of the corps is to strengthen the nation’s security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters. The cornerstone of those activities is the saving of lives. 

Right now, the most important thing Congress and the president can do is work together so that those who are being hit the hardest from a financial standpoint now have a foothold.

In the end, policies and actions must meet assurances and promises. We all need to be paying attention.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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