U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska's attorney general is asking that
seven Missouri River lawsuits pending in North Dakota and three other
states be combined into one action.
The federal lawsuits were filed in North Dakota, Nebraska, South
Dakota, and Montana over the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
operates the Missouri River system.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning filed the consolidation
request with the Federal Multi-District Litigation Panel in
``The continued filing of multiple lawsuits in multiple locations
will ultimately waste the limited resources we have available to
defend Nebraska's interests,'' Bruning said. ``Most importantly, the
multiple lawsuits will likely not result in a new river operation
that balances the needs of all the states and other interests.''
``We hope the other parties to the lawsuits join us in seeking a
reasoned and knowledgeable solution to the operation of the Missouri
River,'' Bruning said.
He said Nebraska needs to protect its interests in the river,
which include maintaining adequate water for power plants,
recreation, wildlife, irrigation, drinking and barge traffic.
The corps traditionally has retained water in upstream reservoirs
and released it in the summer to maintain sufficient water levels for
But the effects of a lingering drought on the upper Great Plains
have made lawsuits over Missouri River management a spring ritual.
Last year, a flurry of federal lawsuits sought to force the Corps
of Engineers to maintain water levels in large reservoirs north of
the river's shipping channel for game fish and recreation.
One lawsuit filed by barge operators last month in Omaha, seeks to
``help ensure that the Missouri River is managed in a way that serves
their interests in flood control, navigation and shipping, ... power
and water supply, agriculture and the environment.''
According the lawsuit, low water flows in 2002 and 2003 caused
interruptions in barge traffic on the Mississippi River.
The Missouri River provides much of the water in the Mississippi
in a stretch from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill.
Another pending lawsuit by 10 conservation groups, including
American Rivers and the National Wildlife Federation, wants the corps
to use a plan for the river that would help the pallid sturgeon, an
endangered fish, and two endangered birds, the piping plover and
interior least tern.
The corps has proposed a half-dozen alternatives to its
decades-old dam and reservoir operations, including doing nothing,
and is working to finalize a new ``master manual.''
The most controversial option is a plan to mimic traditional
seasonal flow changes, a surge in the spring when mountain snow melts
and less water in the summer. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has
said the changes are the only way to comply with the federal
Endangered Species Act.
The document has been under review for 12 years, and its release
has been delayed multiple times.
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