After reading Mr. Clayton Hill’s August 2nd letter, “Port would drain tax money needed for roads,” I would like to set the record straight.
In his letter, Mr. Hill calls freight by barge “obsolete – at least for the Missouri River.” This statement is simply not true. In fact, per the United States Army Corps of Engineers, 4.9 million tons were shipped by barge on the Missouri River in 2017, which marks the largest amount since 2009. Because of great river conditions in recent years, more navigation companies are now operating on the Missouri River, and interest has grown each year.
Mr. Hill also states his support for improvements to our roads and bridges, of which I whole-heartedly agree. However, modes of transportation do not have to be a zero-sum game. Just one barge can carry the same freight as 70 trucks. By loading barges at a new port facility in Jefferson City, our state highway system will be exposed to less damage and congestion, and our citizens will face less air pollution and fewer fatalities. Environmentally and economically, the state benefits from moving more freight on our waterways.
Additionally, the Missouri River is poised to play an important role in light of the recent Panama Canal expansion, which has the potential to increase the “draw area” to the Mississippi River, especially for our agricultural exports. Important conversations are currently taking place about new containerized shipping options on the Missouri River. The bottom line – the future of Missouri River commercial navigation is bright, with much potential to create jobs and opportunity right here at home. I applaud local and state leaders for being forward thinking in looking at the river as an additional means of economic development and I wish them much success.
Dan Engemann, Executive Director, Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, Hermann, Missouri
Progress is being made regarding IRCs. During a meeting with commercial sand dredging interests that CPMR participated in, USACE Kansas City District staff announced suspension of work on IRC sites at Overton North (RM 185-187) and Bryan Island (RM 22-26). The dredging industry voiced major concerns about business impacts at both of these sites, and we thank USACE for listening and adjusting their plans.
Concerns remain surrounding impacts of IRC projects to line-haul navigation, primarily because these projects are being built in bends. On July 6, CPMR Executive Director Dan Engemann, Tom Horgan of AWO and Karen Rouse, MO DNR, met with USACE Kansas City District staff to discuss these concerns. USACE staff indicated a willingness to explore concerns further by talking to specific navigators on the river. More conversation will follow soon.
Despite unresolved human consideration concerns, the USACE and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are committed to building 12 IRC sites on the lower river during the next several years. Two IRC’s are already completed at Baltimore and Searcy Bends. As part of CPMR’s comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted last year, we urged USACE to build one additional IRC and intensely study viability of this latest hypothesis for pallid sturgeon recovery before constructing additional IRCs. CPMR and its members have never opposed the IRC concept. Instead, we have repeatedly urged the Corps to take a measured approach in IRC implementation.
As part of the WRDA bill moving through Congress, CPMR worked with Congressman Sam Graves (MO-6) to get language included that prohibits additional IRC construction until USACE produces a report to Congress that ensures IRCs do not interfere with Missouri River congressionally-authorized purposes and that they are of benefit to pallid sturgeon recovery. This legislation (HR 8) passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously and later was approved by the House 408-2. We expect the Senate to take up its version of WRDA soon.
During a webinar held on June 27, MRRIC gave final consensus approval to the following recommendations and statements of support to both USACE and the USFWS. MRRIC members spent many hours on these recommendations, stemming from work group discussions that began in February. The agencies plan to respond to MRRIC in 60 days. Below is a sampling of 52 recommendations and/or statements of support that are of interest to CPMR members:
- Apply a scientific/systematic approach to hypothesizing and testing HC concerns.
- Collaborate with the MRRIC Bird Work Group, Fish Work Group, and HC Work Group on developing criteria for ESH and IRC site selection early in the process (CPMR language).
- Develop and implement a monitoring plan to gather information about the concurrent river stage and flow that can be reference to potential HC impacts from natural high flow events being monitored for pallid sturgeon spawning response (CPMR edited this language).
- Evaluate the effects of natural, high flow events on pallid sturgeon spawning cues and prior to the date that the test flow should be implemented, recommends the USACE collaborate with MRRIC to identify: a) the timing, frequency, magnitude, and rate-of-change of flows that are thought to be the mechanism for a possible spawning cue and why changes in flow are needed based on the results of management actions to achieve pallid sturgeon objectives; b) the positive and negative impacts on authorizes purposes and c) when and if test flows are consistent with the Master Manual, and under what circumstances this would include deviations from the water control criteria, and what public engagement and/or NEPA review would be done (CPMR edited this language).
- Evaluate the Middle Mississippi, as well as the tributaries to the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, for their contributions to MRRP pallid sturgeon objectives including, but not limited to, collaborating with others who have experience and programs on these systems.
- Explore opportunities to carryover and reallocate FY ’18 funds currently allocated to the ESH construction related activities in the Garrison Reach as a result of a net gain of 257 standardized acres of ESH between July 2016 and September 2017. This net gain is a result of ESH creation exceeding erosion during this time period resulting in a northern region ESH acreage of 1443 acres that far exceeds the ESH target of 460 acres. In addition, high flows are anticipated for the summer of 2018 that have the potential to create additional ESH.
- Fund MRRIC at the level necessary to fulfill its Congressional mandate.
- Include more robust approaches for predicting and assessing retention of pallid larvae, food production, and foraging within IRCs (and that approaches be demonstrated applicable over a wide range of river discharges) as the Draft SAMP is revised.
- Regarding habitat project site selection and design, achieve greater transparency around this kind of outreach/engagement (e.g. enhancing the communication/notification process). The USACE’s outreach should include proactive measures to meet with stakeholder outside of an in addition to the traditional NEPA open house meeting format. The Corps should utilize MRRIC and HC Work Group members to the greatest extent possible to gain insight regarding potential HC impacts of management plan actions (CPMR language).
- Use results of Level-1 and Level-2 studies to ensure that higher Level-3 and Level-4 actions are informed by the science in a manner consistent with the SAMP.
Mr. Messenger’s March 16th column, “Landmark Ruling cements flooding reality: The Missouri River needs room to roam,” about a recent federal court ruling on the Missouri River is divisive and harms the chance for factual debate.
Messenger says the ruling could “cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” but fails to mention that species recovery efforts have already cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and are estimated to cost up to $3 billion more over the course of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) preferred Missouri River management plan.
He speaks of agriculture’s “insistence that the Missouri River be maintained for navigation.”
He also says the navigation industry assumed in 1944 “never came, so stop pretending.” Navigation flourished on the Missouri River prior to flow constraints that were enacted in unsuccessful attempts to help the pallid sturgeon. Due to reliable flows in recent years, Missouri River navigation is increasing, and can play an integral role in efforts to make U.S. products more competitive abroad.
Messenger advocates for government purchases of farmland that farmers “never should have had in the first place.” The solution is not to let the river roam and turn from flood protection to flood enhancement. Farmers are not looking for a buyout, but rather commonsense policies not focused solely on costly experiments for threatened and endangered species.
He calls man-made spring rise mechanisms an “environmental need.” An independent science panel advising the federal government concluded there is no evidence to support the theory that managed spring pulses are necessary to induce pallid sturgeon spawning (Doyle, et. al 2011).
When columnists quote only biased “experts” and argue only on emotion, they precipitate pointless argument. Messenger’s effort to foster a win for rigid environmentalists over the greater public good is regrettable.
Lynn Muench, Chair, Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, St. Louis, Missouri