US Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife officials continue to discuss how the Missouri River will be managed. Corps spokesman Paul Johnston says the low river levels this summer are proof that low summer flows, as proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, are tough to make work properly for everyone. Johnston says, in fact, that recently a grain barge got hung up about 50 miles above St. Louis because the river level had dropped so low. The Corps says a combination of dry weather and restricted releases from upstream dams have drastically dropped river levels. The flows from upstream dams have been restricted because of concerns by Fish and Wildlife officials that greater flows would harm the nesting of shore birds.
Missouri canoe rental companies say they should be held liable if one of their canoes is defective and somebody is hurt as a result, but they should not have to face lawsuits if somebody who rents a canoe from them does something silly miles and miles downstream. Steelville outfitter Robert Bass says that’s been done to him. He says a woman once sued his company because the sun didn’t shine as much as she wanted it to shine during her float trip. Bass and other outfitters want the legislature to pass a law protecting them from nuisance suits like those.
Missouri officials will be in Minnesota for the next two days, making their case against a change in management of the Missouri River.The Missouri River Basin Association meets in Minneapolis with the proposed management change the number one item of discussion. State Geologist Mimi Garstang says the state maintains its opposition to the so-called spring-rise proposal put forth by the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species. And Garstang admits there are times Missouri feels isolated in its fight. She says the proposed change could flood the state in the spring and cripple navigation. It also could leave the river level too low in the summer for public water supplies and utilities to draw from it.
Senator Kit Bond flatly rejects recommendations made by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species that rely on the Missouri River. He says the Wildlife service seems “dedicated to its effort to flood us out.” He says the agency hasn’t done the basic work to confirm the proposed changes would actually help endangered fish like the pallid sturgeon. Bond has been waging war in Washington against drastic changes of how the US Army Corps of Engineers manages the Missouri River. He says that if the Corps incorporates the recommendations of Fish and Wildlife it will cause flooding in the spring and would end barge traffic on the Missouri.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has released it biological opinion concerning the management of the Missouri River. It calls for increased flows from upstream dams in the Spring and the discontinuation of navigation along the Missouri for 3-4 weeks in the middle of summer. The Service says the moves will protect the endangered pallid sturgeon, least tern and piping plover. Brigadier General Carl Strock of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledges the changes would greatly curtail navigation and could end the navigation industry on the Missouri. He says the Corps will look at some alternate proposals, but will proceed with the goal of rehabilitating those endangered species.
The Army Corps of Engineers is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a delay in proposals to deal with altering the flow of the Missouri River. The corps says experts need to do more study on how the proposed changes would help the Pallid Sturgeon increase its numbers. The MissouriRiver Coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, Al Sapa, says the Corps attitude is unacceptable. Missouri politicians and others have been objecting to the Corps plans to change spring river flows. Sapa accuses them of parochialism
Tim Searchinger, an attorney for the citizen’s group Environmental Defense, is telling farmers not to worry about the proposed “spring rise” on the Missouri. He says the U.S. Corps of Engineers won’t open-up dams upstream if there is a danger. And Searchinger says, even when they do, it will only affect river levels by a couple of feet. Environmental Defense thinks the Missouri River should be lower in the summer, even if it hurts barge traffic, because it is an under-used river. Searchinger claims if Missouri weren’t kept artificially high to help barges it would have more beaches, flow more slowly, and turn into more of an economic resource than it is.
Missouri voters could get the last word on a planned “spring rise” on the Big Muddy. Senator Kit Bond says he’s dropped his fight with the White House, clearing the way for higher Missouri River levels in 2001. Bond needed nine senators to switch votes and oppose the spring rise. Bond says with Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota pulling the other way, he wasn’t going to find the votes. Now Bond says it is up to Missouri voters to keep the spring rise from happening. He says Al Gore will pressure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to follow through with the plan unless he’s defeated.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon have free reign to change the Missouri River levels. Senator Kit Bond has announced he’s dropping his battle with the White House. That means the corps will be able to institute a “spring rise” on the Missouri as early as next year. The controversial proposal also calls for lowering the Missouri during the summer. Bond failed to convince enough fellow senators to block the move. He’s encouraging Missouri voters to punish democrat Al Gore on election day.
Republican nominee for Vice President Dick Cheney can’t understand the President’s support for a “spring rise” on the Missouri River. He says a bi-partisan group of Missouri lawmakers have their opposition clear. Cheney says federal agencies have generally done a good job managing natural resources, but he says the Clinton administration in particular tends to steamroll local wishes. Upper Missouri lawmakers have convinced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to raise the Missouri in the spring and lower it in the summer; Senator Kit Bond has lead the opposition. Cheney says state voters should demand to know whether Al Gore joins Clinton in his support for the plan.