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Mississippi River floodwater crests around St. Louis

A stop sign sticks up out of Mississippi River floodwater in West Alton on Saturday, June 8, 2019. The Mississippi River was at 39 feet on the river level gauge in Alton on Saturday and is expected to crest at 39.1 feet on Sunday. A crest of 39.1 feet would be the second highest crest ever on Mississippi River in Alton, but it would still be 3.62 feet below the record flood of 1993. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

As this season’s floodwaters slowly recede and cleanup begins, this is definitely not the time to take our eyes off the ball. Any relief should be tempered by the certainty of future floods just as large and coming sooner than we would like. Yet before the mud has even dried, policymakers are poised to make the problem worse.

When the folks upstream start asking for “flood control,” what they really mean is “flood displacement.” At the bottom of the Missouri River is exactly where that displaced water ends up. But our state and federal representatives insist on pushing the Corps of Engineers to get more water downstream more quickly. Did anybody in Jefferson City or Washington, D.C., bother to consider the impact on St. Charles and St. Louis County?

Can we please listen to professionals who understand rivers and weather? We should be figuring out ways of preserving economic activity near rivers by giving those rivers a buffer. Instead of treating a milewide channel system as a sacrifice, think of that buffer as a less-expensive way to preserve several other miles of farmland and towns. As a bonus, that approach preserves wildlife and recreation at no extra cost. Seventy years of river mismanagement has finally run its course.

Ward Silver • St. Charles