From: David Bailey and David Hendee, Reuters, MINNEAPOLIS/COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa
Published September 3, 2011 09:26 AM

The mighty Missouri River and the mighty flooding damage

The cost of America's quiet billion dollar disaster in the Upper Midwest keeps rising as floodwaters decline.

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Shortly before Memorial Day, a summer of unprecedented flooding from Montana to Missouri along the Missouri River started washing away interstate highway lanes and swamping rail lines as it routed thousands of people from their homes.

Flooding continues this Labor Day weekend and is expected not to end for several more weeks. As the water recedes, the extent of damage from three months of flooding is showing up.

In cities such as Pierre, South Dakota's capital, the receding floodwaters have left behind sinkholes in roads and parks and begun to reveal widespread damage to storm sewer systems, public softball fields and a city golf course.

"We are just now, as the river is going back, really seeing what the damage is," Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill said.

Along the riverbanks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the cost of repairing its levees and patching up its dams from Montana to Nebraska could top $1 billion.

Behind breached levees and across the floodplains, the estimated cost of fixing damaged roads, rail lines, bridges and other infrastructure is swelling in time and dollars.

States in the Midwest are competing for attention, and for federal dollars, with other disasters that have struck since the flooding, including Hurricane Irene on the East Coast at the end of August.

Heavy rains and snow melt in the Northern Plains this spring forced the Corps to release record volumes of water out of its reservoirs, causing historic and persistent flooding.

Along the Nebraska-Iowa border, the three-mile-long Interstate 680 link between Omaha, Nebraska, and Interstate 29 north of Council Bluffs in western Iowa was destroyed.

The south-flowing current reduced the east-west-aligned lanes to rubble. Rebuilding the highway is expected to take until at least November 2012.

Debris and floodwater still covers most of the 22 miles of I-29 north of Council Bluffs to Missouri Valley, Iowa. Iowa officials hope to open that stretch of road this fall.

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Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/03/us-missouri-flooding-idUSTRE78213720110903

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