Response to Tony Messenger Editorial on Missouri River Lawsuit Ruling

Dear Editor:

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

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