Policy Pulse: Cause for Concern in Missouri River Plan

MO River_Pierre SD_credit Taber Andrew Bain
The League is concerned about the Army Corps of Engineers’ preferred alternative for Missouri River recovery and submitted detailed comments asking the Corps to consider other recovery actions in its proposed management plan. Whatever alternative the Corps adopts will chart river recovery for decades and directly impact fish and wildlife, outdoor recreation, and communities along the river.

Federal agencies are required to evaluate “reasonable alternatives” as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The Corps of Engineers presented six alternatives for river restoration in the draft Missouri River Recovery Management Plan.

The Corps’ preferred alternative (Alternative #3) is based entirely on the Corps constructing habitat along the river using heavy equipment – a very costly endeavor. The League strongly believes that to provide the best results, recovery actions need to restore as much natural fish and wildlife habitat as possible. Hundreds of thousands of acres along the river have been destroyed with man-made alterations to the river, such as the navigation channel from Sioux City to St. Louis and six mainstem dams in the upper basin.

In addition, a construction-only recovery alternative would leave the river’s endangered and native species vulnerable to federal budget cuts, making the recovery goals unobtainable without significant federal dollars. A more natural restoration process –letting the river create its own habitat in certain areas – would be less expensive and would more effectively reduce flood risks, improve water quality, restore habitat for self-sustaining fish and wildlife populations, and increase recreational opportunities.

Izaak Walton League divisions and chapters signed on to the League’s comments on the recovery plan (which you can read online at iwla.org/missouririver). The Corps is expected to issue a final decision on the alternative selected from the recovery plan next year.