State lawmakers worry that a $25 million study being conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers on how best to use the Missouri River will bring change, unwanted change in Missouri.

State legislators have little say in management of the Missouri River. Still, they don’t mind expressing their opinion.

Rep. Tom Loehner (R-Koeltztown) can’t understand why navigation on the Missouri River has been allowed to decrease.

“What’s ironic to me is that we have a corridor between St. Louis and Kansas City all across our state; one of the greatest advantages to economic development is sitting right outside our door and not even being used,” Loehner says.

Economic and environmental pressures have subtly, but significantly changed the use of the Missouri River. Upstream states have gained power, helping to keep more river water behind the six upstream dams, aiding the recreation industry on reservoirs upstream. Concern about endangered species, such as the piping plover and pallid sturgeon, have given the US Fish and Wildlife Service more authority in how the river is used. The Service is charged with protecting the habitat of endangered species.

Missouri officials fear use of the river is shifting, from navigation downstream to recreation upstream. Loehner sees the Missouri River as an economic resource.

“I’m just thinking from my agricultural background of all the agricultural products and inputs that can be brought up and down this river and save us tons and tons of money on our inputs that we can provide cheaper food to our consumers,” according to Loehner.

This new study examines use of the river in an effort to decide whether the law passed by Congress in 1944 should change. The Corps of Engineers is holding public meetings on future management of the Missouri River at the following dates and locations.

June 1st, 2010: Hearing at Capitol Plaza Hotel; 415 West McCarty Street, Jefferson City, MO 65101

June 2nd 2010: Hearing at Marriott Country Club Plaza; 4445 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64111

June 3rd, 2010: Hearing at Ramada Inn; 4016 Frederick Blvd, St. Joseph, MO 64506

July 9th, 2010: Hearing at Doubletree Hotel at Westport; 1973 Craigshire Rd, St. Louis, MO 63146

All hearings are scheduled for 5:00pm-8:00pm; The first two hours will contain presentations and a question and answer session with Corps of Engineers Study Team members. The final hour is an ‘open mic’ session, to simply hear input from attendees.

Rep. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) points out that law gave preference to navigation.

“We just don’t want them to change the priorities that’s been put in in 1944 and in 2004 in the river Master Manual,” Munzlinger says.

Some state officials say revisions approved in 2004 already ceded some power from the downstream states to those upstream.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:30 MP3]