I’ve followed the happenings on the Missouri River fairly closely in my time with the NEBRASKAland, especially while writing New Life for the Mighty Mo, which ran in 2003.
I keep finding new reasons to shake my head at the whole boondoggle. It took years to develop a new operating plan for the river, which didn’t change much of what was broken. Now we’re just a few years into the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study, a 5 year program that should tell us what we figured out during the Master Manual revision: quit managing the river for barge traffic that never materialized when the current course of river management was set in 1944 and start managing it more for fish, wildlife and the people that enjoy them. But it probably won’t. Politics will somehow get in the way. Did I mention the study is costing millions?
And now I get a news release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today releasing the “Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mechanical and Artificial Creation and Maintenance of Emergent Sandbar Habitat on the Riverine Segments of the Upper Missouri River.” I dare you to read that 1,486 page report.
The Corps has been spending millions each year to dredge sand from the bottom of the river and pile it up to create sandbars that least terns and piping plovers can nest on. And about as soon as they create them, the river washes them away. Their preferred alternative create and maintain those sandbars identified in the EIS will cost $48 million a year. Seriously?
Here’s an idea. Cut flows like they were when I snapped the above aerial photo near Niobrara in the fall of 2007. There were plenty of sandbars, and that didn’t cost a nickel. Of course the downstream cities and power companies will scream that their water intakes will dry up or they won’t be able to release cooling water. I’m guessing $48 million would go a long ways toward fixing those problems. And those would be one-time expenses. $48 million a year? Is barge shipping in Missouri really worth that much of a subsidy?
Just a thought.
For more on what’s happening on the Missouri, go to http://www.moriverrecovery.org.