Burlington resident Dave McMurray, chairman of the Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers Association, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency's post-flood buyout program served a useful purpose.
"But as just a broad-brush approach, it's not the solution," he said.
The association has been around since 1954, when it began as an organization of levee and drainage districts.
Its members already had agreed to begin addressing broader issues before the 1993 flood, but the disaster and its aftermath accelerated the development of McMurray's group into a more broad-based coalition of agricultural, commercial, recreational and environmental concerns.
McMurray was managing a farm south of Warsaw, Illinois, in 1993. He remembered when the levee there was topped July 9, sending a torrent of water rushing into the bottoms. Still, he's nonplused.
"It's not so unique that it won't happen again," he said.
Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create a management plan for the upper basin in 1999.
McMurray said the plan needs to include a way to more successfully manage peak flows like those of the 1965, 1993 and 2001 floods.
Among the measures his group advocates are:
• Removal of sedimentation that has washed into the river over the past 200 years, filling up the riverbed and impeding its ability to carry water;
• Improving the levee system, some of which were originally built a century ago;
• Improving reservoir systems on tributaries, such as the Iowa and Des Moines rivers, to keep high water on those streams from reaching the Mississippi River so quickly.
One thing McMurray doesn't advocate is restriction of land use to create massive wetland systems.
Less than half of the Mississippi River valley is protected by levees, McMurray said, so there are already plenty of places for high water to go.
"Land use could have a minor impact," he said.
But with 45 percent of the upper valley used for agriculture and another 45 percent already under management for wetland and wildlife habitat use, McMurray said there isn't that much land left to restrict.
"We were fortunate here in Burlington," he said.
Although the former MacArthur Bridge was closed for a few days, he said Burlington was lucky because U.S. 34 remained open for most of the summer.
In other places, however, the flood took an enormous economic toll.
Agriculture was affected, with thousands of acres of crops destroyed. Transportation was disrupted, with the transcontinental network of highways, railroads and pipelines all unable to transport goods.
Grain elevators as far away as Louisiana laid off employees because so many acres planted in corn and soybeans had no yields.
Even rail shipments that made it through were delayed up to four days, according to experts.
Growing tourism industries in Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri were devastated.
Federal crop insurance payments alone ran some $1 billion, not counting another estimated $850 million in non-crop losses.
Just in Iowa, officials put the damage at about $2.7 billion.
Vicki Stoller, then a member of U.S. Rep. Jim Ross Lightfoot's staff and then director of the Two Rivers Levee and Drainage District, said future floods are inevitable.
But things would be far better for the upper river valley if it were managed more like the lower Mississippi River.
South of the Ohio River, where dredging is more regular and levees are stronger, 1993 was just another year.
"The '93 flood was a ripple," she said. "It was devastating up here."