MISSOURI RIVER BASIN
The release of
an environmental impact statement on the operation of six dams
along the Missouri River has resparked a 12-year-old debate on how
to best use the waterway.
During the late 1980s,
a long drought created hard times for fish and farmers, prompting
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-evaluate the way it operates
the dams. Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife recommended that
one dam be used to create a high spring rise and summer ebb to
mimic the river's pre-dammed pattern; that would help the
endangered pallid sturgeon spawn (HCN, 9/14/98: Salvo over salmon)
and provide habitat for the endangered least tern and piping
plover. This spring, it seemed likely that the Corps would formally
endorse the plan.
But in late August, when the
revised draft EIS was released, the Corps backed off, saying that
it wanted to leave all the options open for
"This way, people could evaluate impacts
with all of (the alternatives)," says Paul Johnston, a spokesman
for the Corps. "It'll allow people to study, cuss and
Environmental groups don't see it that
"This is a result of eleventh-hour political
arm twisting," says Eric Eckl of the non-profit American Rivers.
"It's a sign of political interference and bureaucratic
The Fish and Wildlife Service was
"(We) were hopeful that the
Corps would put out the preferred alternative," says Mike Olson,
the agency's Missouri River coordinator, "but biology and politics
can get inextricably linked."
Comments on the EIS
will be accepted until February