U.S. Water News Online
ST. LOUIS -- A consortium of farm interests, navigators and
others whose livelihoods depend on the Missouri River said they plan
to file suit over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to alter
the flow of the river to protect two bird species.
The Coalition to Protect the Missouri River said it intends to sue
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Corps of Engineers and
state fish and game agencies in North Dakota, South Dakota and
Montana. Federal law requires 60 days' notice before a suit against
the federal government. About a dozen other groups are also joining
in the lawsuit.
The group is taking issue with efforts to protect two endangered
shorebirds under the Endangered Species Act. The coalition claims
navigation was shut down and economic losses suffered when the corps
said in July it could not move the birds to accommodate the release
of additional water from two dams.
Barge traffic along the Missouri dropped in anticipation of lower
``This has created a situation where there is such great
unreliability on the river right now, particularly for economic stake
holders,'' coalition director Randy Asbury said. ``It's an economic
The group represents thousands of farmers, municipalities,
utilities, and recreation, environmental and industrial interests.
Asbury said between the first week of July and the middle of
August, the lower water levels yielded an estimated $7 million in
losses, from farmers unable to ship grain to hotel barges canceling
``There is a conflict between the Endangered Species Act and other
congressional acts out there. We believe the corps should have
released water,'' Asbury said.
The wildlife service has ordered the corps to return the river to
a seasonal flow that would make the river higher in the spring, lower
in the summer, or risk violating the Endangered Species Act. The
service says that, otherwise, entire species of birds and fish may
In October, the corps announced there would be no spring rise in
2003, partly because of a widespread drought shrinking basin
reservoirs. The wildlife service said the corps would not be
violating the Endangered Species Act because the service seeks a
spring surge once every three years, on average. As long as a spring
rise occurs in 2004 or 2005, the wildlife service said it would be
Asbury said Missouri River stake holders in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa
and Missouri fear these higher water levels in the spring could
contribute to flooding. Shippers and farmers say the lower summer
flows would halt grain shipments along the waterway for good.
A wildlife service spokeswoman said the service would prefer to
have endangered birds live in the wild rather than captivity.
Corps spokesman Paul Johnston called the effort to find common
ground between economic and wildlife interests ``a delicate balancing
act -- sometimes we achieve what we want. Sometimes we don't achieve
it. That achievement is frequently in the eye of the beholder.''
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.