Flooding along the Mississippi River continues to move south


A hay bale get swept away by the rising Mississippi River near Commerce, MO on Dec. 31, 2015 (Missouri National Guard/Flickr)
A hay bale gets swept away by the rising Mississippi River near Commerce, Mo. on Dec. 31, 2015 (Missouri National Guard/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | January 5, 2016

Deadly flooding along the Mississippi River surges southward this week as areas of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi are expected to reach moderate to major flood stages.

The river is expected to crest early this week along the Tennessee-Arkansas state line and then along the Arkansas-Mississippi state line later in the week. Parts of the Mississippi River along Louisiana may not crest for another week and half.

Seven million people in 15 states are facing the threat of flooding and so far 29 have lost their lives in Illinois and Missouri.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon issued a federal emergency declaration for his state on Saturday which was approved by President Barack Obama.

“The fast-rising flood water inundated several thousand homes and businesses and left behind a trail of destruction, debris and refuse that will have to be cleaned up quickly so that rebuilding can begin and the region can recover,” Gov. Nixon said in a press release. “I appreciate the debris removal assistance the federal government has agreed to provide, and the speed with which the president responded to our request. Federal assistance with debris removal can help ensure the region moves forward from this historic disaster.”

Though Iowa has not been devastated by flooding, heavy rains in the middle of December likely contributed to high river levels south of the Hawkeye State. Des Moines saw 3.78 inches of rain between December 12 and 14 which shattered the previous December precipitation record of 3.72 inches set in 1931. Last week Iowa governor Terry Branstad deployed roughly 45 Iowa National Guard members to assist with flood efforts in Missouri.

UI study finds that Midwest is experiencing more serious floods


Coralville, Iowa during the Flood of 1993. (Alan Light/Flickr)
Coralville, Iowa during the Flood of 1993. (Alan Light/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | February 12, 2015

The Midwest has seen a greater number of serious floods in recent decades compared to previous years, according to a report by researchers at the University of Iowa.

“It’s not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods,” said Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and a co-author of the study.

The report – which was published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change – examined 774 stream gauges in 14 Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). The researchers concluded that 34 percent of the sensors detected an increase in flooding events between 1962 and 2011. Nine percent of the gauges showed a decrease in flood events during that same time. The region including Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and North Dakota experienced the greatest increase of flood frequency.

The authors wrote: “Most of the flood peaks in the northern part of the [Central United States] tend to occur in the spring and are associated with snow melt, rain falling on frozen ground, and rain-on-snow events.” However, the report “does not attempt to pinpoint precisely how climate change might be directly responsible for these increased flooding events.”

Serious floods have inundated the region in 1993, 2008, 2011, 2013, and 2014 and have caused more than $260 billion in damages between 1980 and 2013.

Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources, the Iowa Flood Center, IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, and the National Science Foundation.

Construction begins on $80M hog-waste-to-energy facility in Missouri


Nick Fetty | August 12, 2014
An Iowa farmer tends to his hogs. (Danielle Hughson/Flickr)
An Iowa farmer attends to his hogs. (Danielle Hughson/Flickr)

Construction has begun on an $80 million facility in northern Missouri that will convert hog waste into usable energy.

The facility will utilize a process known as anaerobic digestion which uses “bacteria (to) break down manure in an oxygen-free environment.” Impermeable covers are installed on top of lagoons which trap the biogas. The biogas is then cleaned of any impurities, such as sulfur, making it chemically similar to natural gas.

Germany currently utilizes 6,800 anaerobic digestion facilities which power millions of German households and an estimated 8,200 dairy and swine operations in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) could support similar anaerobic systems.

Various farms and other operations in Iowa have utilized anaerobic digestion techniques and the benefits of anaerobic digestion on swine farms in Iowa has been discussed as far back as 1999. Stockton, Iowa-based Agri ReNew was a recipient of the 2014 American Biogas Council Biogas Project of the Year Award for “the execution of a quality agricultural based project and sustainable business model which can be replicated at farms across the U.S.”

The Missouri project is a collaboration between Roeslein Alternative Energy and Murphy-Brown of Missouri. Renewable natural gas production is expected to begin by fall of 2014.