Missourians get their chance this week to speak their minds about how the US Army Corps of Engineers manages the Missouri River.

A $25 million study of the Missouri River’s use is underway at the Corps of Engineers.

“It’s our belief that in fact the real purpose of the study is to eliminate navigation in its entirety from the river,” according to Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River.

Asbury says there’s reason for downstream states to be skeptical about the study.

“This is a water war,” Asbury says. “We have been in a water war with the upper basin states since the late 80’s if not earlier than that.”

That “water war” intensified in 2004 with a revision of the Master Manual that ceded 10 million acre feet of reservoir storage to the upstream states. The war generally pits navigation versus recreation. Protection of endangered species also is a factor.

Asbury, though, sees a possible turn in the favor of those downstream as concern for saving fuel and protecting the environment grows.

“Navigation is the cheapest source of transportation that’s available at this time and certainly the most environmentally friendly,” says Asbury. “Why would we want to eliminate it at this point?”

Asbury says the Missouri River is important to Missouri in many ways, not just navigation. He says many cities along the Missouri use the river for drinking water. It also is used to generate electricity and to cool power plants as well as for irrigation and flood control. Asbury says the Missouri River’s notorious unreliability has been the main culprit in a reduction of tonnage shipped on the river. What is shipped includes grain, fertilizer, asphalt and sand for construction. Asbury believes the river could become an important transportation source for cargo containers in the future.

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.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:30 MP3]