Controlling the river

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages impoundments of the nation's rivers, backed off last month from releasing water in the lower Missouri River to create high-water conditions for the pallid sturgeon, an endangered species that requires spring surges for spawning.

The corps offset the water coming down the Missouri and into the flood-swollen Mississippi River by cutting releases from lakes farther downstream from the habitat of the fish.

Missouri officials had urged the corps to hold the water back because of the impact it might have on flooding.

A federal judge and U.S. Cort of Appeals had earlier ruled that the corps appeared to be following the law after Attorney General Jay Nixon sued to stop the spring rise.

A corps manager said the combination of releasing more water on the upper Missouri and less on the lower Missouri "achieves the benefit for the pallid sturgeon ... while completely eliminating the flood risk from the pulse downstream of Kansas City to the confluence with the Mississippi River."

It would seem the corps has made a pretty strong case for similarly managing spring flows in the future, perhaps putting an end to the annual squabble between those interested in protecting the fish and those interested in protecting vast areas from flooding.

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