River study's findings

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Some findings in the National Research Council report on its two-year study of the Missouri River ecosystem:

The ecosystem of the Missouri River is declining and will suffer irreversible damage without a return to a more natural, meandering ebb and flow.

In some cases, "significant improvements in river ecology may require relocations."

Congress should give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority to consider ending navigation along some river segments "where it is economically inefficient."

Barge traffic navigation is on the decline, but so are other river industries, such as fishing.

Current efforts to restore and preserve habitat are not sufficient to noticeably recover the river system's health.

Congress should mandate that improving ecological conditions holds the same importance as barge traffic, flood control and hydropower.

Extensive scientific research shows how changes to river operations have damaged the river's ecosystem, but it is not known how the ecosystem will respond to changes designed to improve it.

Further changes to the river's operations should be halted until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers switches to a more flexible, collaborative approach called "adaptive management" that gets input from everyone affected as well as independent scientists.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already has the authority to put practices in place aimed at recovering the river ecosystem, and reversing the ecosystem's decline "will necessitate decisive and immediate management actions." -- AP

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