Spring 2016 Update

Missouri River Issues Update

Spring 2016

 Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC):  MRRIC efforts during 2015 continued to focus on the Missouri River Recovery Management Plan (MRRMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This process will likely influence river operations for an extended period of time and possibly up to several decades. It has been underway for approximately two years and is anticipated to produce a Draft EIS near the end of 2016. Thereafter, a public comment period will occur with a Final EIS and Record of Decision to occur in 2017.

Four of the six alternatives under evaluation include significant spring and/or fall releases, a low summer flow and pallid sturgeon spawning cue releases, all of which would require a revision of the Missouri River Master Manual.

Both the spring and fall releases would also require increased flood control constraints (i.e. downstream flow limits) in the following manner:

Current Constraints                                                    Alternative Constraints

(kcfs = thousand cubic-feet-per-second)

Omaha                                41 kcfs                                  71 kcfs

Nebraska City                    47 kcfs                                 82 kcfs

Kansas City                         71 kcfs                                126 kcfs

The following stage changes could occur as a result of the 60 kcfs spring and fall releases:

Waverly*           

April                    3.6’ increase

October              3.5’ increase

St. Joe*              

April                    4.8’ increase

October              4.8’ increase

* = Stage increases listed were calculated using a median runoff, full-service scenario, along with likely flow releases taken from Plate 3, 2015-2016 Final AOP.

As more information is gathered and impacts to the various interests are better understood, this information will be shared with stakeholders.

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Spring Rise:  As a result of the ongoing MRRMP/EIS process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have again agreed not to conduct a spring rise in 2016.

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Congressional Action:  Led by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, twenty Members of Congress representing Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and Missouri sent a letter on December 17 to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo Ellen Darcy. The bipartisan letter strongly urged the Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “to only pursue a [Missouri River] management plan that would not necessitate a revision of the Master Manual or incur damaging impacts to stakeholders and landowners.”

In an op-ed regarding the letter, the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR) agreed with Members of Congress that “…alternatives should be guided by the best available science, should seek to minimize risks to stakeholders, and should be constrained by the guidelines set out in the current Master Manual.”

In addition, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) championed a fifth consecutive funding prohibition for the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP) in the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  Senator Roy Blunt, Congressman Sam Graves and Congresswomen Vicky Hartzler and Ann Wagner were instrumental in its passage. No funding was provided for the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) in the Act.

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Missouri River Annual Operating Plan (AOP): Each year the Corps releases a draft AOP in late summer. CPR, working with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, reviews the AOP in order to provide public comments regarding the draft plan. In addition, CPR attends the AOP meetings where the Corps presents a variety of information regarding the plan for the coming year. Generally, the final plan is released each December. The Final 2015-2016 AOP can be found at http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/reports/pdfs/finalAOP2015-2016.pdf.

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Western Water Demands:  The State of Kansas held meetings in 2015 to develop a 50-year water plan to address ongoing concerns related to diminishing water supplies. These discussions were precipitated by the ongoing drop in the Ogallala Aquifer that provides irrigation water in the state. A 360-mile concrete aqueduct to transfer water from the Missouri River, ostensibly in high water years, to southwest Kansas was a part of the conversation.

Corps’ officials estimated aqueduct construction would take 20 years and cost $12.2 billion plus $5.8 billion in interest. In addition, operation costs were estimated at $1 billion per year. Those costs didn’t include permitting costs or restoring habitat losses as a result of the project. Both could significantly increase the overall cost.

At this time, it appears the Kansas Water Office has no intention of moving forward with the aqueduct due to its significant costs.

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Missouri River Surplus Water and Reallocation Study:  The Corps has made efforts toward simultaneous actions that will impact municipal and industrial water supply users throughout the Basin. Those actions include the Surplus Water Reports and Environmental Assessments and the Water Reallocation Study.

In May 2010, the Corps was directed to complete six surplus water reports, one for each of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoirs. The Garrison Dam/Lake Sakakawea report was finalized on July 18, 2012.  The remaining five reports were publicly released in August 2012. If completed, the surplus water studies would allow the Corps to enter into temporary, short-term agreements for up to 10 years for the use of surplus water.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 banned the Corps from charging for surplus water stored on the Missouri River for ten years.

The Corps was also directed to complete the Water Reallocation Study. This study examined whether some amount of the storage included in the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System may be permanently allocated to municipal and industrial water supply. The study also examined the effects of the reallocation on the authorized purposes and operation of the reservoirs.

According to a Corps’ September 2012 news release, “One of the key differences between the Surplus Water Reports and the Reallocation Study is that the Reallocation Study, when complete, will allow the Corps to enter into water storage agreements on a permanent basis.”

At this time, both studies are stalled.

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