FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2006
Missouri River Navigation Caught in “Perfect Storm” Created by the Corps
HIGBEE, Mo. – Missouri River navigators are off the river again this week in what has become a continuation of on again-off again summer operations bringing a halt to the shipment of cement, asphalt, fertilizer and steel much needed by end-users.
A combination of low rainfall critically limiting tributary inflows, deficient U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) dike maintenance, inadequate Corps’ dredging contracts and too little water released by the Corps from Gavins Point Dam to maintain minimum navigation service levels from Kansas City to St. Louis have combined to create a “perfect storm” that has halted navigation.
“It’s outrageous that the Corps has chosen not to provide minimum service navigation flows this summer,” stated Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River. “Though they are ostensibly meeting the letter of the Master Manual by erratically hitting flow targets to Kansas City, they are failing miserably to meet the intent of those targets – to provide a pre-determined navigation service level to the mouth of the Missouri River in St. Louis.”
To add insult to the injury of historically low tributary inflows, the Corps’ deficient dike maintenance program has surfaced at an inopportune time as approximately 75 feet of River Mile (RM) 160 dike has eroded creating a 40-foot hole, the diversion of much needed water from the channel and shoaling. Consequently, a Coast Guard advisory was issued on July 20 limiting drafts to seven feet or less – one foot below the eight foot depth prescribed in the Missouri River Master Manual for minimum service operations.
In a recent Coast Guard conference call, it was anticipated that 10,000 to 15,000 ton of rock would be needed to repair the RM160 dike over about a ten-day period – obviously indicating not an overnight dike erosion problem but one that has been underway for a substantial period.
Regrettably, navigators were not surprised by the announcement of deficient dike maintenance as they have repeatedly alerted the Corps of that concern over the past few years.
Moreover, though navigators and others had been assured that dredging contracts were in place to assist in low water conditions, it was made known in the same call that the contracts were for dredging units of inadequate size to address the volume of material to be dredged. This was seen as another slap in the face to the navigation industry that has relied on the Corps’ promise of dredging in emergencies.
As navigators would consider coming back to the river, they must contend with the possibilities of damaging their equipment in extreme low water locations. To alleviate some of the concern they would have, the Corps has offered depth reconnaissance and escort services to navigators upon request to guide the long barges through narrow and shallow waters.
Though the escort service sounds great in concept, a navigator that assessed the offer in practical application stated, “That’s like trying to follow a bumblebee with a 747.”
To that point, much if not most, of what the Corps has offered in lieu of releasing additional water from Gavins Point Dam – the immediate answer to resolve the issue – has potential for success in concept but greatly lacks in the “real-time” application under which navigators must operate.
“It’s been appalling to watch the Corps’ attempt to address this year’s low water emergency,” stated Asbury. “It was just last August that a Federal Court of Appeals ruled that navigation was one of two dominant functions of the Flood Control Act of 1944.”
Clearly, the Corps interprets that ruling differently than navigators. Corps’ support of the navigation industry has dwindled to the point of insufficient water releases in emergencies, deficient dike maintenance over extended periods, inadequate dredging capabilities to fulfill longstanding promises and a complete breakdown in planning for emergency operations.
“Very simply, the Corps’ is not fulfilling their congressional mandate to support navigation,” stated Asbury. “What navigation needs immediately are actions that produce results to keep navigators on the river the entire season – not unfulfilled promises and ongoing navigation unreliability.
While reservoir levels currently hover at 38 million-acre-feet of water (MAF), the Master Manual states that navigation is not to be terminated in drought conditions until reservoir levels hit 31 MAF. The Corps has essentially cheated the navigation industry out of seven million acre-feet of water and struck another blow to navigation reliability.
“In fact, they’ve been so unresponsive and lethargic with the entire emergency that one individual likened their operations to a ‘FEMA-like response,’” concluded Asbury.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 11, 2006
Corps Schedules Precedent Setting “Manmade” Spring Rise Release for Midnight Friday
HIGBEE, Mo. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced today that “with all of the reservoir and river conditions right” the first-ever “manmade” spring rise releases would begin at midnight on Friday, May 12.
This announcement comes on the heels of a delay of the “manmade” spring rise releases from Gavins Point Dam on May 1 due to spring rains. According to Missouri officials, current river stages are on a downward trend following the recent rain events so the “manmade” rise should not be detectable in Missouri barring large, unexpected rain events.
“The precedent this ‘manmade’ spring rise sets is enormous and disturbing,” stated Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River. “We are not overly concerned with the rise magnitude and duration this year but, due to this precedent and a recent Corps’ statement, we anticipate it is only the beginning of a long and potentially devastating road ahead.”
Asbury refers to a May 9 statement by a Corps biologist that, “This is not a one-time experiment.
“The purpose of spring rise tests is to eventually develop enough information to set a long-term flow regime that will address the ecosystem’s and species’ needs.
“We’re not going to learn much in the first year. We’re looking for it to be a 10-to-15-year effort.” (Emphasis added)
Statements as such only confirm what Lower Basin stakeholders have felt all along – Missouri River decisions are set in motion by agenda-driven bureaucrats rather than grounded in “sound” science. It begs the question, “Why do stakeholders continue to go to the ‘table’ in good faith if chosen outcomes are pre-determined.”
Given the nature of the preceding statement, Missouri River stakeholders are perplexed that the “scientific experts” that “generate” the science can continually uphold it as the “best available science”. It screams “conflict of interest” and demands that “independent” science be immediately pursued.
Lower Basin stakeholders have adamantly opposed a “manmade” spring rise for over a decade believing that once the exercise was begun that there would be a push for larger and larger release magnitudes and durations posing an ever-increasing threat to floodplain interior drainage and flood control.
A recent case in point occurred in a December ‘05 Missouri River Natural Resource Committee (MRNRC) letter to the Corps regarding the 2005-06 Missouri River Draft Annual Operating Plan (AOP). In its letter, MRNRC promoted two spring rises at substantially larger magnitudes and advocated increasing the duration of the first rise to 38 days rather than the two days prescribed by the Corps in the AOP.
MRNRC’s plan would increase the magnitude of potential flooding by dramatically raising the Gavins Point Dam flow releases to levels that would increase river stages by four-plus feet at various locations when the river is at flood stage levels.
This year alone American taxpayers will be hung with a $54 million tab to purportedly save the tern, plover and pallid sturgeon. Next year’s proposed budget is $85 million and it is projected that over $1 billion will be confiscated from taxpayers’ pockets before this exercise concludes.
At a minimum, these massive expenditures dictate that “independent” science form the basis of future management decisions rather than the “inbred” science now generated by current scientists using this cash-cow to carry out their agenda.
Asbury concluded, “A part of our federal government’s original design was to protect its citizens.
“Our Founding Fathers would look upon this fiasco with two birds and a fish as a disgrace upon their legacy.
“With that in mind, we will be an even more aggressive voice at the table.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2006
“Manmade” Spring Rise Delayed Because of “Natural” Spring Rise
HIGBEE, Mo. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) delayed the historic first-ever “manmade” spring rise yesterday partially due to rising water conditions in the Lower Basin. Recent spring rains created a “natural” spring rise and more rain was forecasted for the coming days.
“Can you PLEASE explain to me why we are postponing a “manmade pulse” because nature has already created one,” asked Ron McNeall, a farmer from Keytesville, Missouri. “I would be embarrassed to be calling these shots!”
In another expression of frustration, another commented, “That seems a little redundant to me. What a joke. We’re going to wait for the natural spring rise to go down before we release water to create a manmade spring rise.”
Though both individuals are strong supporters of flood control constraints – historic flow discharge triggers at various locations of the lower river reach that, when hit, initiate reduced flow releases from Gavins Point Dam to avoid Lower Basin flooding – they also understand the oxymoronic nature of the “manmade” spring rise being delayed due to a “natural” spring rise.
An Associated Press article on Tuesday, April 25 stated, “As of Monday, monitoring stations in Omaha, Nebraska City, and Kansas City, Mo., all were well below flood stage, and [Paul] Johnston [Corps] said it is ‘unlikely’ that levels would reach a danger point in the next few days.”
Unlikely – BUT NOT UNREAL. Seven days later the river stage at Boonville “naturally” increased over seven feet – over three times the magnitude of the much-anticipated “manmade” spring rise in some locations – due to rain events.
Despite how “unlikely” the Corps believes it is for river levels to increase overnight, this event confirms the longstanding argument of stakeholders that the Corps cannot predict spring weather and once the water is released from Gavins Point Dam, floodplain farmers, businesses and municipalities are at risk.
Though it seemingly means little to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), pallid sturgeon that reside in approximately 600 miles of Lower Missouri River do experience a “natural” spring rise almost on an annual basis.
Ironically, the USFWS has mandated a “manmade” spring rise to target a short reach of the Missouri River immediately below the Gavins Point Dam in which the pallid sturgeon is not normally found.
To add insult to injury, in its September 2005 report, the United States Geological Survey revealed findings that as of the report date 75% of the shovelnose sturgeon tracked in that study successfully spawned without a “manmade” spring rise release from Gavins Point Dam including in the reach immediately below the dam.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 28, 2006
Missouri River Stakeholders’ Grateful for State of Missouri’s Aggressive Legal Effort
HIGBEE, Mo. – Missouri River stakeholders were pleased today with the State of Missouri’s aggressive legal effort to obtain an injunction from the U.S. District Court in Minnesota to stop the first ever “manmade” spring rise poised to occur sometime after May 1.
“Since 1994, stakeholders along the river have fought side-by-side with State officials to circumvent any “manmade” spring rise and with this historic precedent looming on the horizon, they appreciate the strong support that Missouri officials continue to offer,” stated Randy Asbury, executive director for the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River.
“Governor Blunt has worked hand-in-hand with Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon to challenge this “manmade” spring rise every step of the way. This most recent action indicates their willingness to fight in the last hour.”
The procedural process in which the “manmade” spring rise was created was rife with deficiencies. Stakeholders were granted only an abbreviated opportunity for public input in the latest Master Manual revision and this opportunity came to the surprise of many and offered no occasion for in-depth review of the intricacies of the water releases.
In addition, the inclusion of a “manmade” spring rise is a significant departure from the Master Manual as it was revised after a hard fought 15-year battle. Moreover, a proper analysis of the impacts was not completed according to National Environmental Policy Act requirements.
This latest round of litigation comes on the heels of a tremendous win for Missouri and other Lower Basin States as the Supreme Court recently denied three attempts by Upper Basin States to overturn the August 2005 ruling that affirmed flood control and navigation as the dominant functions of the Flood Control Act of 1944.
“All Missourians, and especially our elected officials, understand the potential harm that a “manmade” spring rise can create,” stated Asbury.
“We may be in the ninth inning with two outs, two strikes and down by one run with respect to a spring rise, but we’re not going to give up. Government foolishness is foolishness at its worst. It would be remiss on the part of Missouri not to stand against every government action that magnifies the risk for flood control and interior drainage damages.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 15, 2006
Subcommittee on Rural Enterprises, Agriculture and Technology Hears Testimony on “Science” Supporting “Manmade” Spring Rises
HIGBEE, MO – Missouri Congressman Sam Graves’ Subcommittee on Rural Enterprises, Agriculture and Technology held a March 15 hearing entitled The Missouri River and its Spring Rise: Science or Science Fiction? to discuss the impacts of the mandated Missouri River “manmade” spring rise on individuals and small businesses along the river.
According to Chairman Graves, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) mandated a ‘spring rise…’ in order to protect…the [endangered] pallid sturgeon. The USFWS has asserted that this will mimic the natural hydrology of the river and return it to its natural flow.
“Farmers and others who live along the river already face the prospect of natural floods and that risk only increases with an artificial spring rise. Additionally, many dispute the science used to formulate the ‘spring rise.’”
Last summer’s Missouri River plenary group discussions established that current science does not substantiate the benefits of a “manmade” spring rise as a pallid sturgeon spawning cue.
United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have confirmed stakeholders’ doubts regarding the benefits of a “manmade” spring rise as a spawning cue and recently stated “scientific data about what management practices benefit sturgeon are limited at this time.”
The September 14, 2005 USGS Update on Sturgeon Research Report revealed findings that as of the report date 75% of the shovelnose sturgeon tracked in that study successfully spawned without a “manmade” spring rise release from Gavins Point Dam including in the reach immediately below the dam – the river reach that has not even a naturally occurring spring rise.
“There is no justification for a “manmade” spring rise based on the latest USGS science. More questions than answers exist regarding pallid sturgeon science and needs. Moreover, scientists point to factors such as river temperature and photoperiod as more advantageous to pallid spawning than a “manmade” spring rise,” stated Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River.
“Furthermore, no adequate scientific baselines exist from which to gauge the success or failure of a “manmade” spring rise. P. Paul Leahy, Acting Director for USGS, admits that ‘…2 years [of pallid sturgeon research] is not a long time for understanding the essential life history needs of [the pallid sturgeon].’
“Unfortunately, management decisions based on unverifiable results only produce more unwarranted experiments and more distrust among stakeholders.”
Asbury concluded, “The ‘manmade’ spring rise is an unjustified experiment grounded in science fiction. We look forward to the day when Missouri River decisions are based on sound science and not dictated by agenda-driven bureaucrats.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 13, 2006
Missouri River Coalition Applauds Governor’s Position on Proposed River Group
HIGBEE, Mo. – Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR) members today applauded Missouri Governor Matt Blunt for his decision not to participate in the new Missouri River Basin group comprised of the merger of the Missouri River Basin Association (MRBA) and the Missouri River Natural Resources Committee (MRNRC). The merged group would be identified as the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (MORAST).
“In a recent letter to Governor Blunt, we requested that the State of Missouri not participate in a group that would likely promote river policy to the detriment of our stakeholders,” stated Randy Asbury, executive director of CPR. “We are pleased that he understands the adverse implications of the proposed merger and has signaled his ongoing support of our stakeholders by his recent decision.”
CPR’s impression over the years has been that the State of Missouri, and specifically its stakeholders, has received little, if any, benefit from either MRBA or MRNRC. MRBA continues to operate in a manner that does not generate consensus or win-win answers to the many complex problems facing the basin.
Generally, Missouri has been alienated in MRBA voting situations, yet has had to contend with the negative policy generated by MRBA and used by Upper Basin States and radical environmental groups to maneuver river management decisions toward their best interest at the expense of Missouri stakeholders.
On the other hand, MNMRC is a group that focuses solely on biological issues without any historic consideration of the socio-economic impacts associated with their proposals. Despite scientific uncertainty,MRNRC consistently advocates for Missouri River policy that would be devastating to the agricultural, navigational and utility stakeholders that comprise CPR.
A recent case in point occurred in a December ‘05 MRNRC letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the 2005-06 Missouri River Draft Annual Operating Plan. In its letter, MRNRC promoted two spring rises at substantially larger magnitudes and advocated increasing the duration of the first rise to 38 days.
MRNRC’s plan would increase the magnitude of potential flooding by dramatically raising the Gavins Point Dam flow releases to levels that would increase river stages by 4-feet plus at various locations when the river is at flood stage levels. This proposal could be devastating to the inland drainage and flood protection of floodplain farmers.
Furthermore, MRNRC showed its disregard for flood protection by proposing a plan that includes language stating “flood control constraints should be raised as necessary to prevent them from stopping the [spring] rise.”
Flood control constraints – set by the Corps – are the historic flow discharge triggers at various locations along the lower river reach that, when hit, initiate reduced flow releases from Gavins Point Dam to avoid Lower Basin flooding.
“MRNRC has clearly indicated it has no respect for the real-life concerns of Lower Basin interests by advocating two spring rises with increased magnitudes and durations and by disregarding our basic flood protection needs by advocating raising the flood control constraints,” declared Asbury.
MRNRC’s historic positions have been stridently out-of-step with the needs of our stakeholders and this most recent letter elevates those differences to an outrageous level.
For these reasons, we adamantly support Governor Blunt’s decision to not give credibility to MORAST by becoming a dues paying member of an organization that would work against Missouri’s best interests.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 31, 2006
Corps of Engineers Go With the Flow – “Manmade Spring Rises” Dominate 2006 Missouri River Annual Operating Plan
HIGBEE, Mo. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released its final draft of the 2005-06 Annual Operating Plan (AOP) today calling for a bimodal “manmade” spring rise despite the perennial and adamant opposition to that unjustified plan by Lower Missouri River Basin stakeholders .
“Historically, the Corps has not modified the AOP from beginning to end,” stated Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPR). “However, in this instance, we had hoped that common sense would prevail with, at a minimum, relief from the “manmade” spring rise in 2006.
“Unfortunately, precedent has again been established that river management – based on theory and speculation rather than sound science – is literally the order of the day. Our stakeholders find no comfort in a process that places no value on the reality of their concerns or on strong science.”
In December, CPR submitted detailed comments to the Corps in which they steadfastly opposed several aspects of the draft ’06 AOP including the bimodal “manmade” spring rise and the increase in flood control constraints on the lower river – a move that would decrease the same flood protection the Corps is legislated by Congress to provide.
Flood control constraints – set by the Corps – are historic flow discharge triggers at various locations of the lower river reach that, when hit, initiate reduced flow releases from Gavins Point Dam to avoid Lower Basin flooding.
Scientific uncertainty continues to form the basis of the flow modification mandates the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used to force the spring rise agenda forward.
Despite repeated public proclamations by Missouri River scientists that little is understood of the needs of the pallid sturgeon, experiment-driven river management has been birthed with the hope of cueing pallid sturgeon spawning – spawning that according to recent studies already occurs under natural conditions with and without a spring rise.
Moreover, the USDA – Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently gave farmers notice that crop losses associated with a “manmade” spring rise would be uninsurable.
Section 12 of the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions informs producers that crop insurance provides coverage against unavoidable losses due to a naturally occurring event.
Consequently, because a government-sanctioned release of water by the Corps does not qualify as a naturally occurring event, RMA is prohibited from insuring crop losses.
“If the Corps intends to proceed with implementing even one spring rise, then it is incumbent on the Corps to determine a way to resolve the issue of flooding and crop insurance,” stated Charlie Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation.
“I was always taught that the mission of the Corps was to manage the United States’ navigable waters, not to react to the whims of environmentalists and put citizens in harm’s way.
“If anyone wonders why people are losing faith in our government, you only have to point to this issue which is totally void of logic and common sense.”