By B. A. Walker, Rivers Director September 21, 2016
The Politics of the Missouri River
On December 17, 2015, 20 members of Congress from the Missouri River Basin, six senators and 14 representatives, sent a very pointed letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, urging restrictions on the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that could significantly limit their options in complying with the Endangered Species Act in the Missouri River. Essentially, this request, if strictly complied with, would likely place endangered species in jeopardy.
The letter represents a problematic response by members of Congress to the earnest and legally required attempts by government agencies to comply with laws that Congress itself has written. Unfortunately, this letter is a clear indication that members of Congress are being influenced by anti-environmental and heavily subsidized special interests to the detriment of the general public and future generations.
For the last 30 years, the Corps and USFWS have intertwined in an effort to fix the many significant problems caused by construction of the congressionally authorized Missouri River Bank Stabilization & Navigation Project (BSNP). The BSNP turned the lower Missouri River into an ineffective and environmentally damaging barge canal that had cost taxpayers over $750 million to build and maintain as of 1980, per the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Report of the Chief of Engineers (See Tables 20-1 and 21-A). Ongoing maintenance and restoration costs have added hundreds of millions of dollars to the total cost.
Numerous political obstructions have been devised by those who want to delay or stop this river restoration effort, formally called the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP). The above referenced letter is just their latest orchestrated attack.
Background and History
Damming and Channelizing the Missouri River
The Missouri River had been known for centuries to flood frequently and ruthlessly, as is its nature. Regrettably, most stakeholders have refused to accept this fact, attracted by the flat and fertile floodplains created by the frequent flooding, and so floodplain farmers and industry have developed along almost the entire lower Missouri River. The government has promoted this development for economic purposes, without really considering all the negative ramifications.
After failing to construct a 6-foot deep channel during the early part of the 20th century and attempting to deal with the impacts of numerous floods, a compromise scheme was authorized by Congress through the Flood Control Act of 1944 called the Pick-Sloan Plan.… Read the rest