Kevin Landwehr of the Rock Island District explains proposed water control plan changes.

PELLA — Kevin Landwehr has to admit it’s getting wetter.

That’s why the way decisions are made about storing or releasing water at Lake Red Rock and Saylorville Lake needs to change, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leader said July 31.

“We’ve seen a lot more high flood events, certainly a lot more rainfall,” Landwehr said during a meeting with local landowners at Central College about the Corps’ proposed plan. “We’re seeing more water coming into these lakes.”

A lot of rain fell earlier this year, providing the Corps with the opportunity to do some what-iffing, Landwehr said.

“What if we had the plan we’re proposing in place for this event?” he asked.

The Corps is floating a plan it chose from among a dozen developed after a series of public meetings last year. Landwehr said it’s based on three issues that compel changes in how the system operates:

  • The Des Moines River has seen many more, much stronger floods.
  • Sedimentation has hurt water storage capacity.
  • Constant deviations from existing plans show the need for updates.

Flood risk management and drought management continue to be the top priorities for Saylorville and Red Rock, Landwehr said. Any new strategy involves trade-offs, he said.

“If I’m more aggressive in managing a small flood event, I run the risk of not being able to manage the larger flood events,” he said. “Likewise, if I dedicate more storage in the reservoir to drought management, that offsets with flood-control management.”

The Corps settled on a plan called Alternative 6, which appears strongest at lessening the likelihood of major floods, Landwehr said. After walking his audience through details of release plans as water reaches higher elevations at Red Rock, he sought their feedback.

Click here to read the plan and submit comments or call 309-794-5729. The comment period ends Aug. 17.

Pat Finan is the editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express and Pella Chronicle. He can be reached at 641-295-0624 or via email at or

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