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Waco Tribune: EDITORIAL: Congressman’s sturdy resolve in Lake Waco Dam repairs could benefit from even longer look ahead

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Washington DC, June 15, 2016 | comments

At first thought, Lake Waco seems to beckon as a place for Central Texans to boat, fish, swim, hike and bike — especially compelling notions with the Fourth of July just around the corner and summer break in full swing. Yet, from the perspective of our city and county leaders, state officials and federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Waco is much more.

City leaders see it as a vital resource that ensures quality of life and economic growth for the Waco area, thanks not only to our forefathers’ visionary water planning decades ago but local taxpayers’ investments in recent years. And state and federal leaders see it as an integral component in ensuring flooding is smartly controlled — at least to the degree Mother Nature allows — both upstream and downstream.

And as many on the Brazos know, resources such as Bosque-fed Lake Waco also ensure much industry thrives in a state known for drought — a concern for all, given the increasing evidence of climate change. Some of us can stick our heads in the sand and deny all the data, but what most scientists now conclude is relevant if you care about the steep costs of flooding and drought.

We gratefully applaud Republican Congressman Bill Flores in his efforts to ensure federal money is available to repair and maintain Lake Waco Dam in the wake of significant flooding statewide. Heavy rainfall — yes, also a big part of climate-change scenarios — caused a section in the earthen dam several feet deep and 300 feet long to slide downhill last month.

Indeed, flooding amid heavy rainfall up and down the Brazos has caused major problems. A Corps spokesman told Trib staffer Phillip Ericksen last week that damage to recreational facilities at Lake Waco such as boat ramps and picnic tables are enough that its parks could be closed for months.

Given some of the bleak assessments from federal officials about funding available to make repairs and improvements — dam improvements could cost millions — it’s reassuring to hear Flores insist the Army Corps has the money it needs to maintain Lake Waco Dam and that it will be able to secure any extra money it needs to respond to flooding.

“They’ve got the money to address issues like this, particularly the dam issue,” Flores told the Trib. “But to the extent they need extra money because of the flooding, it shouldn’t be difficult to obtain. If you look at history we’ve had since I’ve been in office, in an environment where we haven’t had earmarks, we’ve still been able to get tens of millions of dollars for McLennan County.”

Our compliments to Flores for his resolve regarding Lake Waco Dam. But while we make major fixes after weeks of flooding, we must also take a second, longer look at what scientists say we should be doing to prepare for an eventuality that may already be here.

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