Schweitzer said he also objected to the decision to close the meeting to the press. The governor said he had prepared a PowerPoint presentation to show how Montana was able to anticipate flood levels months in advance, but was told he could not show it at the gathering.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls six dams along the river, from Fort Peck in northeast Montana to Gavins Point in the southeast corner of South Dakota. Brigadier Gen. John R. McMahon, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers northwest district, also was to attend. A corps spokeswoman has cautioned against demanding sweeping changes based on one flood season.
Holding less water in upstream dams would mean less water for boating and fishing in upriver states, and fewer reserves during summer dry periods that could be hard for wildlife, worsen dry-year drought conditions in Kansas and Nebraska, severely limit barge traffic and reduce hydropower generation, said Tim Cowman, director of the Vermillion, S.D.-based Missouri River Institute, which studies the river basin.
In interviews ahead of the meeting, governors and other state officials said they expected to unite around safeguards such as levee repairs and improved river-level gauges. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has said he would call lawmakers into a special session to develop a plan to repair and rebuild hundreds of miles of flood-damaged levees.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, who is hosting his fellow governors, said that the scale of this year's flooding should convince states to find common ground.
"I think you're going to see a more united front than ever before between the upstream states and the downstream states," Heineman said, adding that the flooding affected "homes, farms, ranches, businesses, power facilities ... from North Dakota all the way down to Kansas and Missouri."
Farming advocates say their industry has taken a backseat and want levees repaired to protect farmland. Iowa farmer Leo Ettleman, spokesman for Farmers for Responsible River Management, said flooding this year ruined more than two-thirds of the 2,300 acres he farms with his son.
"The entire system was built for flood control," he said. "Fish and wildlife issues have really dominated the scene in recent years. Agriculture didn't have a big enough voice. This recreation stuff is great, but there's got to be a happy medium here."
The Missouri River ran largely untamed until the 1950s, when dams were built as part of a nationwide effort to control and harness the power of waterways. When Congress approved plans for the dam, lawmakers required the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the river for flood control, navigation, irrigation, power generation, municipal and industrial water supplies, recreation and wildlife preservation.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.