Izaak Walton League of America

Comments Needed on Mississippi River Structures

“Training structures” have been used for more than 100 years to direct the Mississippi River, narrowing water flows to scour the bottom and deepen the river for navigation. You can find these structures throughout the navigable portions of the upper Mississippi River, but most are located below the Melvin Price Locks and Dam (near Alton, Illinois).

In addition to damaging fish and wildlife habitat, there is significant evidence that these structures increase flood heights and contribute to flood damage downstream. Despite this evidence, the Army Corps of Engineers has continued building river training structures – with limited outside involvement or opportunities for public comment – by relying on certifications and approvals that date back to the 1970s. However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found this practice to be a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). GAO is now requiring the Corps to prepare a new environmental assessment for river training structures in the middle Mississippi River – the stretch between where the Missouri and Ohio Rivers drain into the Mississippi

Opportunity for public comment is part of the environmental assessment process. The Corps is asking that public comments be submitted by mid-March, and the League encourages all members and supporters to weigh in on this issue to help improve the health of the Mississippi River and its value to fish and wildlife and the American people. 

Sample Comments
As part of the environmental assessment, the Corps is asking the public to respond to two questions: 

  1. What do you think an assessment of new river training structures should include?
  2. What alternatives to the way the Corps does business today do you think should be considered?

Following is a list of comments that you can personalize as part of your response to the Corps of Engineers.
1. The St. Louis District should provide the public with a Web site that contains information on river training structures, the environmental assessment requirements and process, the Government Accountability Office report, and additional information and resources that may help the public understand issues relating to river training structures.

2. Environmental and economic impacts that must be included in the assessment:

a. Impacts to fish, waterfowl, aquatic vegetation, and invertebrates, with particular attention to threatened and endangered species and species in greatest need of conservation.
b. Impacts to sedimentation and sediment movement both around the structures and in the main channel.
c. Impacts to river stage (height) and discharge, with attention to river stage during high flow and flood events that have caused economic damage to surrounding areas.
d. Impacts of river stage and discharge to local economies in the region as they relate to navigation and business.
e. Impacts of river stage to flood damage in the region that may be caused by river training structures.
f. Impacts of each individual type of river training structure on wildlife to identify which are more/less harmful to native species.

3. Alternative models that must be considered include:

a. Removing all river training structures.
b. Removing some river training structures and maintaining others.
c. Maintaining some structures while allowing others to fall into disrepair.

You can e-mail your comments to RiverTrainingStructures@usace.army.mil.

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