It now appears nearly inevitable that parts of Manhattan will flood this summer due to water released from Tuttle Creek Reservoir. The lake is almost entirely full, and the rainiest part of a typical year is still to come.

It will be tempting, when that time comes, to blame the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for whatever damages result. The Corps, you might say, held water back for so long that they couldn’t avoid damaging releases out the spillway, rather than routine releases out the tubes.

And in a sense, that’s true.

But the Corps is in charge of flood control throughout this entire portion of the country, and they have a whole system of reservoirs to manage. The point, ultimately, is to prevent as much flooding as possible all along the system that feeds the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

By holding water in Tuttle and other reservoirs, they were able to control flooding along the Missouri for quite some time. The balancing act thus far has actually worked fairly well, and if there’s some wildly good luck in the next few weeks, Tuttle could theoretically avoid spillway releases.

Don’t count on it. Probably the water will reach the top of the spillway gates and the tubes won’t be able to keep up with the inflow. And when they open the spillway gates, water will rush down toward the Blue and Kansas rivers, flooding portions of Northview that aren’t protected by the levee.

Watching floodwaters rush into neighbors’ homes, ruining everything, is frightening and infuriating, and knowing that it has happened because a human being flipped a switch somewhere is no doubt exasperating.

It would be wise to keep in mind at that point the bigger picture. The lake has prevented many floods and will continue to do so. We get to live in the shadow of the dam that creates that lake, and we get a great number of benefits from that. This is the tradeoff.

Recommended for you