The Government Shuts Down…

All the news and most politically oriented conversations the last several days have been about one topic: the government shutdown. Rather than adding another voice to the chorus of on-line voices discussing all of this, I thought this week I’d simply respond to a couple of inquiries that I’ve received concerning the shutdown and federal agencies involved in disaster relief. The two agencies folks asked about were FEMA and USACE. Here are the answers, so far as I can find them:

From Colorado, ABC7 news reports, “Flood relief will continue inspite of government shutdown.” Apparently, while there will be cuts in personnel for FEMA (read: furloughs), FEMA will continue to work with disaster victims, utilizing the Disaster Relief Fund, which, at least initially, will not be affected by a funding lapse for annual appropriations. FEMA’s webpage says that non-disaster assistance may be impacted, but not disaster assistance, which remains fully operational.

For those of us along the Mississippi River, one of the most important agencies during a disaster is the US Army Corps of Engineers. Not surprisingly, then, friends along the river have been concerned about the USACE. The Corps’ LinkedIn Webpage states, “As a result of the government shutdown, we are operating on reduced staffing. Our updates may be less frequent, but we will continue to share news and information related to the Corps for the immediate future.” Some of the public lands they run are being shut down — for our friends over in Missouri (and those of us in Illinois who jump across the river from time to time), one such closing is Mark Twain Lake. The word I’m hearing is that if you’re planning on taking advantage of the beautiful weather and heading to one of the scenic locations along the river or its tributaries, you should check with the park rangers before you head out!

CNN’s Crossfire has  a table that shows which agencies are feeling the effects of the funding lapse, and what is being closed, curtailed, furloughed, or minimized.

Next week, we’ll be posting about flood plains and Supreme Court case law, regardless of whether the federal government remains shutdown.

The Army Corps of Engineers: Change of Command is a Change for the MRC

On September 24th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a change of command ceremony for the Mississippi Valley Division. Brig. Gen. Duke Deluca took over. He is the 37th commander of the division. You can see the Corps’ press release here.

One of the important aspects of his job is serving as the president-designee of the Mississippi River Commission. The USACE coordinates with this agency in very important ways that affect us all along the Mississippi. This is an agency that has existed for well over a 100 years and is, in my view, one of the most understudied and least understood federal agencies, particularly given its staggering importance to such a large number of states and localities. It oversees the Mississippi River and Tributaries flood control and navigation project, providing advice and guidance on issues relating to water resources all along the Mississippi AND its tributaries.

If you’re unfamiliar with the MRC, take a look at the map it provides (we reproduced it below) and read through some of the information on its page.

MRC Map

That is a large chunk of the country… Good luck, Brig. Gen. Deluca!