2002 News Releases

2002 Index

December 16, 2002 – DISREGARD FOR MISSOURI RIVER USES FORCES PROPOSED LEGAL ACTION

October 3, 2002 – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Agree on 2003 Missouri River Management

July 31, 2002 – Endangered Species Act Halts Congressionally Authorized Navigation

July 9, 2002 – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Denies Corps Request to Relocate Bird Nests or Collect Eggs

June 17, 2002 – Missouri River Preferred Alternative Announcement Delayed Indefinitely

June 3, 2002 – Missouri and Mississippi River Mayors Convey Concerns to President Bush

April 30, 2002 – South Dakota Flip-Flops, and Files Suit to Reduce Water Releases

April 5, 2002 – American Rivers Floods Media with River Rhetoric

January 9, 2002 – National Academy of Science Calls for Moratorium on Missouri River Master Manual Revision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 16, 2002

DISREGARD FOR MISSOURI RIVER USES FORCES PROPOSED LEGAL ACTION

HIGBEE, MO — Uncertainty regarding the future of all Congressionally-authorized uses of the Missouri River has forced Missouri River stakeholders to rally against the unproven science mandated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The Corps’ implementation of USFWS prescriptive mandates would disregard navigation, flood control, and other established uses of the Missouri River in favor of dubious methods intended to protect some species.

“This is government at its worst, pulling the strings based on unproven science that may help species recovery when we know that it will kill economic activity and increase flooding,” stated Chris Brescia, chairman of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River. “The National Academy of Sciences stated that no empirical evidence exists to support the Service’s theories on species recovery. On top of that, we do know, however, that the environmental impacts of taking traffic off the river and shifting it onto other modes will be detrimental to all species — human and animal alike.”

A Notice of Intent to Sue (NOI) the USFWS and Corps was forwarded to Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and Secretary of the Army Thomas White as well as three upstream Fish and Game agencies on behalf of twelve associations and companies representing thousands of farmers, navigators, municipalities, utilities, recreation interests and industry.

“These individuals and companies are prepared to go the distance in this battle to maintain a river that provides for all congressionally authorized purposes,” said Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River. “Unjustified actions and failure to follow procedure by the USFWS and the Corps have caused unreliability and economic devastation long enough.

“The NOI provides a sixty-day notice to the agencies of intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) including:

  • Economic impacts were disregarded when designating critical habitat for the piping plover;
  • The USFWS’s alternative for operation of the Missouri River will
    eliminate navigation and materially interfere with power, water supply and flood control;
  • The Corps and the USFWS must revise or remove operational mandates under the ESA since new information shows that endangered and threatened birds have rebounded and meet or exceed certain recovery objectives;
  • There is no basis for a mandated spring rise since one already exists on most of the Missouri River;
  • The management of the upstream reservoirs to support non-native fish for economic support of sport fishing is illegal; and,
  • Hybrid sturgeon may have been caused by the stocking program rather than habitat concerns.

Actions mandated by the USFWS and implemented by the Corps during summer ’02 created flows below minimum navigation service levels, inflicting economic losses on navigators, grain terminals, excursions lines and industry estimated in the millions of dollars. These “bird operations” occurred to protect 41 interior least tern and piping plover, birds listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, though their population numbers have increased substantially and fledge targets have continually been met under current Missouri River management practices. For the first time in history, the mandates of the Biological Opinion (BO) disregarded authorized project purposes in lieu of conservation and unsupported science.

RiverBarge Excursions Lines, Inc. (REL), the only hotel barge company in the U.S., forced to cancel their ’02 Missouri River excursion at a loss of $1 million due to the “bird operations”, cancelled their 2003 Missouri River excursion schedule on December 13 due to “conflicts between the Corps and the USFWS…that could result in water levels that are not sufficient to support navigation on the Missouri River.”

REL’s press statement said, “The nature of REL’s business is such that there needs to be a long-term reliability and reasonable certainty to navigation on the Missouri River.”

“Flow unreliability continues to have adverse impacts on the Missouri River and would have critically affected Mississippi River commerce in 2000-2002 if the USFWS mandates had been implemented,” stated Chris Brescia. “It’s imperative that the President recognize that the unproven science of the BO dictates Missouri River management that’s not in the best interest of this nation or those he has committed to support.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2002

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Agree on 2003 Missouri River Management

HIGBEE, Mo. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced its 2003 Draft Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for the Missouri River today answering long-awaited questions on how the river would be managed next year. Missouri River stakeholders were pleased to see the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agree on a 2003 plan that would not include a “spring rise” or summer flows below minimum navigation service levels — flows stakeholders have firmly advocated against since 1994.

Speculation abounded that the highest proposed spring rise and lowest summer flows might be included in the AOP by default since no Missouri River preferred alternative had been announced for the Missouri River Master Manual Review and Update. Each extreme scenario would have potentially devastated agriculture, navigation and utilities interests through increased risks of flooding, loss of navigation or curtailment of power generating capacities by electric plants dependent on the Missouri River for cooling needs.

“Stakeholders saw what flow extremes cost them this summer,” said Randy Asbury, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, referring to the reported $7 million losses experienced by navigation companies and grain terminals as a result of the 2002 low summer flows. Those flows stemmed from a USFWS decision not to allow threatened or endangered bird eggs and chicks to be moved from sandbars to increase navigation flow support below the Gavins Point Dam.

Asbury commented, “The summer of 2002 set a historic precedent for Missouri River management when the Endangered Species Act (ESA) virtually trumped river commerce. Only one boat was able to continue during the low flows and it sustained damage due to low water grounding. Commercial navigators wouldn’t be able to withstand two back-to-back summer flows that shut them down as this summer’s flow did. That’s why this decision is so crucial.”

Stakeholders advocate against minimum service flows that would adversely affect river commerce, but have always been willing to “share the pain” of drought with Upper Basin recreation interests. They do this by operating under a reduced flow regime that sustains reservoir levels for longer periods.

They are not so willing, however, to sustain economic losses for the sake of a “narrow” interpretation of the ESA that occurred this summer. Apparently, a cooperative agreement has been reached between the Corps and the USFWS on how the Corps can operate 2003 flows to avert another bird-related economic catastrophe.

In a letter to Dr. Ralph Morgenweck, Regional Director for the USFWS, Brigadier General David Fastabend, Corps Division Engineer stated, “In the light of the ongoing drought in the Missouri River Basin, our expectations are that there will not be sufficient water in the Missouri River system available in 2003 to allow the Corps to support the ‘spring rise’ component of the RPA [Reasonable and Prudent Alternative].

“Absent the unlikely circumstance of having to evacuate storage during the summer for flood control reasons, the Corps intends to provide for stable or declining flows from 15 June to 15 August, going no lower than those necessary to meet minimum service levels to navigation…Such releases likely would allow for fledge ratios for interior least tern and piping plover to be met again in 2003.”

According to Corps data, the 2002 nesting season was “a very successful year for terns and plovers.” For the 4th out of 5 years and the 3rd consecutive year, piping plover goals have been exceeded. Productivity for the least tern has also been high marking 2002 as the 5th consecutive year that least tern production has exceeded USFWS goals on the Missouri River.

Plovers and terns are producing above expectation levels under the current management plan,” stated Asbury. “That along with a lack of science on how a spring rise will cue pallid sturgeon spawning should be justification enough to quit playing with Missouri River flows. Unfortunately, it takes a drought to bring common sense to the issue. Our hope is that common sense will prevail over the long haul and the ESA won’t continue to be used as a weapon against stakeholders’ livelihood.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 31, 2002

Endangered Species Act Halts Congressionally Authorized Navigation 

HIGBEE, Mo. — Missouri River navigators and terminal operators are under the gun. For the first time in history, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) trumped congressionally authorized Missouri River commerce, resulting in low river levels virtually eliminating navigation.

Navigation is the mode of transportation terminal operators are reliant upon. Only one full-service boat drafting a shallow 6 _ foot remains on the river, attempting to serve a host of terminal operators normally served by several boats.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) made a request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to move endangered and threatened interior least tern and piping plover chicks and eggs to increase flows from Gavins Point Dam to augment navigation flow support downstream.

Increased flows would have inundated the chicks and eggs without relocation from low lying sandbars below the dam. On July 5th, the USFWS denied the Corps request to relocate the birds, and Missouri River levels subsequently declined bringing river commerce to a standstill.

Navigation companies have been “sharing the pain” of drought with Upper Basin recreation interests throughout their 2002 season. In April, navigators began their season 4000 cubic feet per second (cfs) below full service support and were reduced an additional 2000 cfs on July 1 to minimum service levels. The full service to minimum service support reduced barge carrying capacity by 200 tons per barge, increasing costs to terminal operators.

“Barge companies and terminals are experiencing devastating revenue decreases, additional infrastructure expenses and employee layoffs as a result of low river flows,” said Randy Asbury, executive director of CPR, the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River.

“One grain terminal is investing approximately $175,000 in temporary facilities to store a million bushels of old crop corn normally shipped by barge before the new crop harvest begins in late August. Another operator completely dependent on barges missed sales on 1,500,000 bushels of corn and beans at a loss of $300,000.00 because they couldn’t get freight.”

Low water levels increased barge transportation costs by as much as 20 percent increasing them $2.00 per ton for some grain terminals. A 20 percent increase is also equivalent to six cents per bushel of grain shipped. Rail rates to move the same commodities would be $12 to $20 per ton.

Farmers eventually carry the burden of increased grain transportation costs, passed along through reduced commodity prices. Studies by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri indicate the loss of river commerce could reduce corn prices by 19 cents per bushel — approximately nine percent of the current price paid to farmers.

“However I look at the numbers, it is apparent the cost of doing business this fall is going up as the water in the river is going down,” said Jerry Young, Assistant General Manager, AgriServices of Brunswick. “The ultimate impact is with the consumer.” Another terminal operator stated, “The reduction in business has and will result in us laying off employees and taking other cost cutting measures to make ends meet.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 9, 2002 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Denies Corps Request to Relocate Bird Nests or Collect Eggs 

HIGBEE, Mo. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) denied a recent request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) to relocate nests or collect eggs for threatened or endangered piping plovers and interior least terns located below Gavins Point Dam.

The Corps’ request was prompted by drought conditions in the Missouri River Basin creating the need for additional water releases from Gavins Point Dam to augment and sustain flows necessary to support the congressionally authorized operations of energy suppliers and navigation in the Lower Basin.

Additional water released from Gavins Point Dam would swamp bird nests located within inches of the water’s edge unless moved to higher ground. The USFWS decision counters their historical authorization precedent for nest relocations and egg collections which have previously
proven successful. The USFWS has not issued a statement justifying their decision.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service provided no reason to deny congressionally authorized purposes the right to flow support,” said Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River. “It seems Fish and Wildlife is using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a weapon at a time when they didn’t receive their prescriptive mandates for river management.”

Asbury refers to the June 13 announcement of an indefinite delay on the release of a Missouri River Master Manual preferred alternative. The USFWS demanded a spring rise and split navigation season in their December 2000 Biological Opinion to improve nesting opportunities for the piping plover and least tern.

Indications are the USFWS and Corps are at odds over what the birds really need, if anything, to improve their populations. Plover numbers have grown 470 percent in five years and 140 percent in  the decade on the Missouri River under the current water control plan. Also at odds are the ESA and the U.S. Commerce Clause, two federal directives continually conflicting with each other.

Barring additional rainfall, this ESA initiated decision will result in navigation flow support declining to a level precluding or drastically hindering barge commerce on the river until the birds naturally migrate in mid-August to September. This would result in increased transportation costs for shippers.

A lower flowing river also creates potential water quality issues for energy generating plants. Water quality standard permitting levels become more difficult to meet during peak electrical demands. At least one plant is already reducing maximum load limits due to high river water temperatures to meet their temperature discharge limit. As river levels decline during hot summer days, occurrences of this nature will likely increase.

Asbury concluded, “The USFWS may finally get their split navigation season. Unfortunately, common sense resolutions to problems on the Missouri River are again foiled by dictatorial mandates from a federal agency not willing to collaborate or compromise. It’s another sad event impeding Missouri River progress.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 17, 2002

Missouri River Preferred Alternative Announcement Delayed Indefinitely 

HIGBEE, Mo. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has indefinitely delayed the announcement of the Missouri River preferred alternative for Missouri River operations management. This delay comes on the heels of a postponement of the announcement originally due to occur May 31.

Randy Asbury, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR) said, “We applaud the Corps and the Bush Administration for the leadership they are providing in this contentious issue. They understand the adverse social and economic impacts a poorly chosen preferred alternative could have in the Missouri River Basin. A prudent decision to delay was made in the midst of the inadequate and faulty science that currently exists in this issue.”  

At issue are the negative consequences Missouri River Basin stakeholders may experience as a new Missouri River operation guidance document is proposed and implemented. At odds are the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), federal agencies responsible for Missouri River management operations and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), respectively.

The USFWS’s Biological Opinion demanded flow modifications on the Missouri River to address endangered and threatened species’ needs. Though no official Corps comment was made, the delay was apparently precipitated by the Corps’ differing opinion on the benefits of flow modifications.

Corps personnel have long thought spring rise levels demanded by the USFWS weren’t substantial enough or of ample duration to move sand or remove vegetation from sandbars for the two birds listed under the ESA. Inadequate science also exists to demonstrate a man-made spring rise will provide the spawning cue purportedly needed for pallid sturgeon to naturally reproduce.

CPR members and allies view this recent delay as recognition of the message they have advocated since August 31, 2001 — a new preferred alternative must include common sense and balance the needs of species with the social and economic needs of Missouri River stakeholders and citizens.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 3, 2002

Missouri and Mississippi River Mayors Convey Concerns to President Bush 

Higbee, Mo. — Sixteen Missouri and Mississippi River mayors and county executives expressed concern to President Bush May 30 about Missouri River management changes. The letter to the President from major cities and counties in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri stated, “Seldom do we confront proposed major federal actions as far-reaching and significant as amending the operations manual for this country’s longest river.”

The operations manual referred to is the Missouri River Master Manual, the guidance document used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for Missouri River management decisions.

A Master Manual review and update began in the late eighties and the review process is expected to enter a new phase any day as the Corps announces its chosen preferred alternative — the plan selected to guide Missouri River management in the 21st Century.

Six alternatives for river management were proposed by the Corps in August 2001. Four options include a “spring rise” feature generating passionate debate over the concerns that Lower Basin flood risk would increase as “man-made floods” combine with natural flood events. Recent natural flooding in downstream states raised river levels in Hermann, Missouri from 6 foot to 27 foot in a 72 hour period and caused the death of nine people in Missouri and hundreds of millions in property damage. This is a valid reminder man cannot control Mother Nature and unexpected rain events are a normal occurrence in the Midwest.

The four options include a lower summer flow anticipated to adversely impact Missouri and Mississippi River barge navigation — an environmentally friendly and economically advantageous mode of transportation important to business and industry in major cities lining the Missouri River.

“In addition to our concerns about the proposed changes to navigation and flood control…, we are equally disturbed that the (Corps) has given inadequate attention to the negative impacts these proposed changes would have to river commerce for states on the Mississippi River…Citizens of our communities have long recognized the value of our nation’s inland waterway system and flood control management. Billions of dollars worth of commodities move annually on the system, much of it bound for export from our deepwater ports. Furthermore, flood control benefits have been estimated at $24.8 billion by the Corps. It is, therefore, inconceivable that the Corps would choose to move forward with proposed changes to Missouri River operations without having a clear and thorough understanding of the negative implications for the entire inland waterway system and the importance of flood control management,” said the mayors.

The mayors concluded their letter by stating, “In closing, we assert that is it absolutely critical that the Corps not abandon its longstanding commitment to downstream flows on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. None of the new proposals currently being considered by the Corps would adequately support the continued viability of the entire inland waterway system nor do they address municipal concerns about potentially serious flooding. We ask that these proposals be withdrawn given these concerns.”

A preferred alternative for Missouri River management was expected May 31 but was delayed for unknown reasons. Once this announcement is made and a Final Environmental ImpactStatement is released regarding the alternative, a 30-day comment period will occur for citizens to voice their opinion on the direction the Corps selects for future Missouri River management.

The following cities or counties were represented on the letter:

Atchison, Kansas
Boonville, Missouri
Brunswick, Missouri
Glasgow, Missouri
Hermann, Missouri
Jefferson City, Missouri
Kansas City, KS/Wyandotte Co.
Kansas City, Missouri
Morrison, Missouri
Omaha, Nebraska
Sioux City, Iowa
St. Joseph, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
Washington, Missouri
St. Charles County, Missouri
St. Louis County, Missouri

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 30, 2002

South Dakota Flip-Flops, and Files Suit to Reduce Water Releases

Higbee, Mo. – The State of South Dakota filed suit April 25 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to prevent the Corps from releasing water from the Upper Basin Reservoirs through May 22. Corps officials indicated this action would result in ending river commerce for that period.

South Dakota biologists and state officials cited lower water levels would have negative impacts on the rainbow smelt hatch. Rainbow smelt are food fish for the walleye, South Dakota’s signature fish. Randy Asbury, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR) commented, “South Dakota must be experiencing an identity crisis.

“It’s like Jekyl and Hyde,” Asbury said. “Just two months ago South Dakota was calling for high spring releases during this same time period to save the pallid sturgeon from extinction. Today they want the releases shut down. Either the pallid has made a remarkable recovery, or that never was their motive.”

South Dakota, a member of the Missouri River Basin Association (MRBA), was the only MRBA member state to advocate GP2021 during the public comment period of the Missouri River Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement Master Manual Review and Update. GP2021 would create the highest spring rise between May 1 and June 15 and the lowest summer flows of the six alternatives proposed by the Corps.

GP2021 is perceived by Lower Basin States as the worst possible alternative proposed due to the potential for flooding, the cessation of navigation and the possibility of electrical brown outs due to extreme flow changes. South Dakota filed their suit one month before the Corps announces their preferred alternative choice for Master Manual modifications.

In a news release issued last July, Tom Daschle, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, said language included in the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill protects the integrity of the decade long public process to revise the Master Manual.

“We took an important step today to guarantee the integrity of this process and allow it to run its natural course,” Daschle said. “There will be no change in dam management until the corps completes its review at the end of October (2002), and I think there is no good reason to interfere in this process before it is completed.”

This legal action contradicts Daschle’s legislative intent and raises the question as to whether South Dakota’s real motive was to kill Missouri River navigation during its critical spring season. “South Dakota’s legal complaint spoke aggressively against Missouri River navigation pitting it against their state’s recreation industry,” Asbury said. “It is clear they never intended to help endangered species – recreation is king in South Dakota, and downstream navigation stands in its way.”

The legal action goes before a federal judge in South Dakota Wednesday, May 1. CPR coordinated a massive effort to generate affidavits and interveners from those who would be negatively impacted by water release curtailment; farmers, navigators, energy suppliers and barge terminals.

“They love what they do and understand the importance of what they do for this region and the nation, and they are not going to quit in the wake of these continual attacks on their legal rights,” Asbury said. “It will be interesting to see if they will get a fair shake in a South Dakota courtroom. Their own U.S. Senator Tom Daschle was right when he said there is no good reason to interfere in this process.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 5, 2002

American Rivers Floods Media with River Rhetoric

Higbee, Mo. – The Missouri River was named the #1 most endangered river for the second year in a row by the environmental group American Rivers. Randy Asbury, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR), commented, “It’s business as usual for American Rivers. A flood of propaganda is released where navigation is slammed, economic statistics are distorted and the potential for adverse social and economic impacts are grossly understated. It’s unfortunate their media machine hinders rather than aids any real progress in this debate. It’s not surprising, however, given the timing of their release.”

Asbury refers to the Master Manual Review and Update that is underway in accordance with the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIS) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released on August 31, 2001. The Master Manual acts as the guidance document for all Missouri River management decisions. During a six-month public comment period that concluded on February 28, the Corps received 55,000 comments regarding five new alternatives to Missouri River management operations. The new alternatives are demanded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to create sandbar habitat for the piping plover and interior least tern and as a spawning cue for the pallid sturgeon – three species identified on the Missouri River as endangered or threatened.

Asbury acknowledged the Missouri River needs change. “The contentiousness of the issue, however, revolves around whether the USFWS recommendations will actually benefit anything or if they are even needed for certain species,” stated Asbury. For instance, the Environmental News Service stated on January 25 the USGS 2001 International Piping Plover (IPP) Census shows the plover population increased “470 percent in five years and 140 percent in the decade” along the Missouri River. This increase occurred under the current water control plan. The IPP Census contradicts the December 2000 USFWS’s Biological Opinion’s plover recommendations that were based on “a substantial decline in population numbers” and demanded flow changes as a solution to the decline.

Asbury also cited the ongoing scientific contradictions in Missouri River issues that must be addressed before any management changes are made on the river. The Biological Opinion demands a spring rise as a spawning cue for the pallid sturgeon. The RDEIS Executive Summary states, “Corps and USFWS biologists agree there is no data to support definition of a spawning cue that would successfully result in spawning on the Lower River.” The Corps affirms in the RDEIS Master Manual Review that, “This lack of information supported the general understanding between the Corps and USFWS staffs that the required spawning cue is basically unknown at this point in time.”

Asbury concluded, “American Rivers will continue to release a barrage of rhetoric to drive their Missouri River agenda despite its lack of common sense and balance. Unfortunately, I doubt they’ll be anywhere to be found if their agenda produces a man-made flood that causes economic and social devastation in the Lower Basin.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 9, 2002 

National Academy of Science Calls for Moratorium on Missouri River Master Manual Revision 

Higbee, Mo. — A moratorium on Missouri River Master Manual Revision was called for today by the National Academy of Science (NAS) in their long-awaited report — The Missouri River Ecosystem: Exploring the Prospects for Recovery. The NAS report stated, “A moratorium on further revision of the Master Manual should thus be implemented until such revisions reflect a collaborative, science-based approach based upon adaptive management to improve the condition of the Missouri River ecosystem.”

Randy Asbury, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR), commented, “We were pleased to see the Academy call for a moratorium. They realize many questions remain unanswered about the solutions needed to address Missouri River problems and have stated the most significant scientific unknowns in the Missouri River ecosystem are how the ecosystem will respond to management actions. We believe the risks of changes are known but that the benefits from proposed changes are highly questionable.”

Asbury stated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) demanded an immediate package of prescriptive management actions which would potentially adversely impact flood control, navigation, energy entities, businesses and industry along the river. Asbury applauded the NAS for their broader focus in recognizing the scientific unknowns which could cause relocation or dislocation for humans, property and economic interests.

Asbury acknowledged the NAS Report provides a natural resource view of the state of the Missouri River ecosystem; however, being one-dimensional in focus, it does not critically assess the social and economic risks inherent to any river management change. He stated, “Our coalition members are a part of the Missouri River ecosystem. We believe a multi-dimensional view which takes into account all costs to society including potential property damage from flooding, the loss of navigation as a transportation mode or electrical brownouts
should be assessed in an unbiased manner as a part of ecosystem review. We don’t believe this has been adequately accomplished to date.”

Finally, Asbury noted navigation was unfairly portrayed in the report and has again been labeled as the scapegoat in Missouri River problems. He stated, “It’s obvious the NAS Committee doesn’t understand navigation benefits to agriculture and industry have an annual regional value of $75-200 million. They also don’t understand navigation needs or they wouldn’t have recommended it be managed segment-by-segment. It will be impossible for the U.S. Corps of Engineers (Corps) to provide flow services on one segment of the river, yet not on another. Any water released from the lowest Missouri River dam will pass through every segment of the river every time it’s released.”

The Master Manual Review began in the late-eighties as drought settled over Missouri River Basin States. Upper Basin States lobbied the Corps to change its Missouri River management plan calling for the release of less water from reservoir dams to support their lake infrastructure and recreational interests.

As the review continued into the nineties, the FWS released a Biological Opinion in November 2000 identifying three Missouri River species as being threatened or endangered (interior least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon). The jeopardy opinion precipitated the current Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Corps has released to update the Master Manual.

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