Missourians, including two prominent ones, tell the US Army Corps of Engineers not just to preserve navigation on the Missouri River, but to enhance it.

The Corps is holding 30 public meetings to gather public input into its review of the Flood Control Act approved by Congress in 1944, the act that authorized the construction of six upstream dams and the channelization of the Missouri River downstream to promote navigation. The Act authorized eight purposes for the Missouri River Basin: flood control, water supply, navigation, water quality, irrigation, recreation, hydropower and fish and wildlife. Congress has funded a $25 million study of the 1944 Act to determine if any changes are needed to conform the Act with current uses of the Missouri River Basin.

The study is officially called the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study.

West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton joins a chorus of Missouri critics who contend this latest study of how the Missouri River is used is merely another effort to end navigation on the Missouri.

“For years, North Dakota and other upstream states have sought to hold water behind dams and siphon water away from the Missouri River to bolster its own economic interests,” Skelton tells the Corps during the meeting at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. “This is nothing new for those of us from Missouri who look to protect our own interests and for many our livelihoods by pursuing a river management plan that allows for robust navigation.”

Both Skelton and Senator Bond complain that the study is a waste of time and money. They are critical of Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, for pushing through the appropriation. Others at the hearing also complain that the Corps seems to be constantly reviewing how it manages the Missouri River. A 15-year study that cost $35 million dollars made changes in 2004 to the Master Manual that guides the Corps’ management of the Missouri.

Bond tells the Corps Missouri will not go away in the fight over how best to use the Missouri. He says recreation on the reservoirs upstream cannot trump the economic needs of the downstream states. Bond also asserts that river transportation is economical and easy on the environment. He points out that China, Panama and Brazil are all investing in water transportation. Bond says the United States should be studying ways to increase water transportation, not restrict it.

“Right now we’re at a crossroads. Will we continue to study and delay and allow our competitors to leave us far behind? Bond asks, “Or will we embrace the future that will give our nation and states here in the heartland the tools to produce, employ, grow and prosper?”

The Corps will hold another public hearing tonight in Kansas City. Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow in St. Joseph. A hearing will be held in St. Louis next month. The Corps is holding 30 “scoping meetings” in all.

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 [:60 MP3]

AUDIO: Congressman Skelton addresses Army Corps of Engineers Jefferson City meeting [6:30 MP3]

AUDIO: Sen. Bond addresses Army Corps of Engineers meeting in Jefferson City. [10:30 MP3]