Notes from the Field, June 12, 2011, Flood Costs Borne By All

Missouri Valley, Western Iowa.  Besides the highly visible destruction of buildings in the Missouri Valley, the Great Missouri River Flood of 2011 has inflicted a number of less apparent costs on the American people.  For example, all the National Guard soldiers and airmen called to active duty in recent weeks are not working as volunteers.  Each one is paid a salary by you and me – the American taxpayer.  Taxpayers are also paying for all of the gasoline, sandbags, helicopters, trucks, and lodging used by the military.  Deploying the U.S. military up and down the valley for the next several months will not be cheap.  Then there is the cost of lost farm production as the Missouri covers acre upon acre of farmland from Yankton, South Dakota, to the mouth.  The ultimate price for the inundation of agricultural lands will be borne by American consumers.  Shoppers will pay higher prices for food and ethanol-based fuels.  Additionally, the costs of transportation will go up for trucking firms that operate in the Midwest.  In western Iowa, portions of I-29 and I-680 have already closed to traffic, resulting in long, time-consuming, and fuel-guzzling detours through the rolling hills of Iowa.  Consumers of the products carried by those trucks will pay for the increased transportation costs incurred by firms.  Then there is the damage to road beds by large trucks hauling earth and rock to the levees being built throughout the valley.  The roads are not designed to support such heavy, constant truckloads.  All of the trucks moving between the burrow pit at North Sioux City, South Dakota, and the levees at Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, are pulverizing the roads between the two points.  Taxpayers will pick-up the tab of repairing those roads.  This flood is going to be expensive for all of us – not just its immediate victims.

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