LAWRENCE — A hydroelectric power plant operator is calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to better manage reservoirs along the Kansas River as the region sees flooding and high water levels.
Sarah Hill-Nelson, president of Bowersock Mills & Power Company, told the Lawrence Journal-World that the turbines at her family's hydroelectric power plant have sat dormant since mid-May due to the river's high water levels. Hill-Nelson and the Kansas Water Office's acting director, Earl Lewis, shared their concerns about river flow management with U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins on Friday.
Hill-Nelson said the Army Corps of Engineers could improve the release of water from reservoirs and protect those along the Kansas River corridor.
Lewis added that the Corps of Engineers' rules are outdated and risk averse. They both want the agency to update its flood-response rules.
"Having this much water is going to challenge us on every aspect of water management," Lewis said. "But I think as we're talking here today, the things we can control, really, are the reservoirs and how they're operated."
Lewis suggested finding ways to release water from reservoirs earlier, or hold water longer, depending on the case. He said the Corps' rules don't necessarily allow for such flexibility.
James Lowe, the federal agency's spokesman, said the water has to be managed as a system that accounts for 50 levees along the Missouri River between Kansas City and St. Louis.
He said holding water in the Kansas River reservoirs this spring helped protect those areas along the Missouri River.
"More of those levees would have overtopped and breached had we been releasing during that time," Lowe said.