The Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC), two years ago, began the process of having a panel of independent scientists look at the practice of conducting a spring rise on the River. That panel presented a draft of its report to the Committee last week.

Dr. Robert Turner is the “Third Party Science Neutral,” chosen by the Committee to lead the panel. He says it found that the way the spring rise is currently implemented will probably not achieve its intended purpose: to cue spawning for an endangered fish, the pallid sturgeon.

The panel suggests if the Corps of Engineers better coordinated the rise with other efforts, such as construction of shallow water habitat and emergent sandbar habitat, those activities may all have greater impact. He says even a small spring rise might be useful in conjunction with those other practices.

MRRIC Chairman Michael Mac says the panel’s findings will challenge the agencies that manage the River. When the final version of the report is released next week, he says the Committee will ask those agencies to study it and offer an official response.

The Committee will likely offer a recommendation related to the report when it meets again in February, in Kansas City. It will also be trying to select “Topic Number 2,” the second thing it will ask that independent panel to study.

Dr. Turner says the members of the panel were carefully studied to make sure they were, indeed, able to be impartial in reviewing the spring rise. He says its 6 experts’ have the credentials to meet the needs of the panel, and have no financial or family ties to River management. Each member also signed a conflict of interest form, affirming no such ties exist.

He notes, the Corps, the U.S. Geological Survey and several state agencies have been monitoring the effect of the spring rise on the pallid sturgeon. The panel has concluded that those agencies are not looking at all the factors they should, while other pertinent indicators go unchecked. The panel did identify that sturgeon have spawned in years with and without a rise.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, have jointly decided that no spring rises will take place on the Missouri River in 2012. Mac says that gives the Committee time to consider this report and react.

The draft report can be viewed here. More information on MRRIC can be found here.

AUDIO:  Hear Mike Lear’s interview with MRRIC Chairman Michael Mac and Third Party Science Neutral Dr. Robert Turner.  16:00