Spring Flooding Sparks Debate on River
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers said releasing water from upstream states' reservoirs will raise the river about 2-3 feet and give pallid sturgeon, a native Missouri fish, more places to deposit their eggs. It's a classic case of environmental science vs. economic benefit
"I don't have much sympathy for farmers who now say that their lands, that was made very rich and fertile by the Missouri River, are going to be flooded," said Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club.
Critics say the Corps' raising of the Missouri River could flood 1.4 million acres of nearby land. So, Gov. Blunt wants to stop it.
"By their own admission, there's no good scientific evidence that these two man-made floods are necessary to better protect the species in question," Blunt noted.
"There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the pallid sturgeon has declined to the point where it's almost non-existent," said Midkiff.
The Corps wants to reverse that, by raising the river level in the spring to encourage spawning. However, farmers don't want their lands flooded. The governor is prepared to take the issue to court.
"If I was advised by the attorney general that a lawsuit has some opportunity or chance for success, I'd be very supportive," said Blunt.
"They said if there's flooding going on, then they won't release any more water," said Midkiff. "I think those fears are a little bit exaggerated."
The Corps of Engineers said it can regulate flooding when it releases water from upstream reservoirs in March and May. Farmers and environmentalists are upset, and there's also the question of political overstatement and the effect on the general public.
The pallid sturgeon is one of the largest fish in the Missouri River, with some weighing up to 85 pounds.