Missouri River Rising

1 decade 7 months 4 days ago February 23, 2006 Feb 23, 2006 Thursday, February 23 2006 Thursday, February 23, 2006 4:10:08 PM CST in News

Peggy Smart flashes back to 1993 whenever she hears about releasing more water into the river.

"They called it the 100-year flood, the 500-year flood, but they really didn't know," she said. "Three- fourths of our farmland was inundated by the flood."

Now, Smart fears her farm will flood again because of the Corps' action.

"There's been a lot of very frightened talk of flooding," the Corps' Paul Johnston responded. "And I think that's probably a little over the top."

The Corps said the river needs more water to save an endangered fish.

"They think that's going to provide the kind of cue that the fish need to say, 'Oh, it's time to start spawning,'" explained Wyatt Doyle of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Experts say pallid sturgeon need a lifeline.

"They literally could be extinct in our lifetime," Doyle added.

But, Smart is not ready to toss her line of support to a fish.

"They don't know if it's going to work for them, and it may prove disastrous for us," she said.

The Corps of Engineers said flooding is not likely, because the river level won't rise by more than three feet when the additional water reaches Missouri.

But, if farms get drenched, water insurance may leave farmers all dried up. Corps insurance only covers natural disasters, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the spring rise doesn't qualify.

The USDA sent a letter to the Missouri Corn Growers Association about the insurance issue.

"The release of water by the Corps is not a covered cause of loss because it does not qualify as a naturally-occurring event."

However, the Corps said it will try to control any flooding.

"We see the water coming up, we use the weather forecast," explained Johnston. "If it starts coming up, then we would cut that increase off."

The Corps plans the first release in mid-March, if upstream reservoir water levels are high enough.

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