American Rivers hailed the Missouri River Basin Association (MRBA) for endorsing dam reforms to restore the Missouri River. Six of the eight member states of the Missouri River Basin Association -- Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming -- voted to urge the Corps of Engineers to begin testing new operations of the dam and reservoir system over a ten year period to re-create more natural seasonal water levels in the river. The states of Iowa and Missouri remain opposed to any changes to the status quo.
"This is a huge breakthrough," said Chad Smith, director of American Rivers Nebraska Field Office in Lincoln. "Six basin states siding with the science, economics, and law that all clearly point to the need for dam reform should be a serious wake-up call."
After 14 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up a new "Master Manual" and is seeking public reaction to six options for operating its six Missouri River dams. In its formal comments, the states echoed a January report from the National Academy of Sciences that called for carefully controlled and monitored experiments with river flows as the first phase of an effort to reverse the decline of the Missouri River.
"MRBA would like to see the demonstration project continue for three cycles of higher springtime flows, or approximately ten years," the group wrote. "The demonstration project must be conducted according to the principals of adaptive management that were endorsed in the recent National Academy of Sciences study of the science of the Missouri River."
Of the six options under consideration, American Rivers and the members of the Save the Missouri Coalition endorse the "Flexible Flow" alternative, formally known as GP2021.
If the Corps adopted this alternative in its final Master Manual, it would have the latitude to fully implement the MRBA's recommendations as the starting point. "Flexible Flow" is the only option now under consideration that fully captures the recommendations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for preventing the extinction of three species on the Missouri.
"This act of leadership from the states points the way towards a solution that should be acceptable to everyone," Smith said.
"It's a positive starting point from which the Corps can work its way toward restoring the health of this most historic river system."