Engineers and wildlife managers have announced the completion of the project to create shallow-water habitat along the Missouri River. The work’s a part of the master plan to help the endangered pallid sturgeon, and Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General William Grisoli says it has other benefits. He says the corps’s done a significant favor to not only the pallid sturgeon but the river’s whole aquatic environment, but also the two endangered bird species, the least tern and piping plover. The word “building” may not be accurate, as Grisoli explains the habitat will be shaped within the existing river channel by a natural process the engineers have set in motion. They’ve cut small notches in the rock dikes along the river, causing differential in flow speeds to make the sediment in the “Big Muddy” settle out along the sides. The Fish and Wildlife definition of “shallow water habitat” is an area where water’s less than five feet deep and flowing at less than two and-a-half feet per second. Grisoli says the river fills those areas in itself, reducing the manpower required to create the habitat. Grisoli says work on the river years ago centered on making the channel deep and fast, but now it’s changing to create shallow areas where the flow is slower and less direct. Robin Thorson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the building of the shallow-water habitat uses natural patterns they’ve seen in the river’s own changing environment.Thorson says the floods a few years ago demonstrated great changes in the river, and “we know there are all sorts of things a river can do,” so rather than wait for other natural changes she says they decided to apply known technology to constructing habitat they way they wanted it. And Thorson said the Fish and Wildlife service did not give in to pressure to agree to the habitat plan. The Corps’ Bill Grisoli acknowledges that the ongoing drought has sparked many of the battles over use of the river’s water, in and out of courtrooms.He says they’ve taken steps to mitigate impacts of the extended drought, serving all purposes of the river’s users although it’s at reduced levels. The habitat work and the Corps of Engineers new “Master Manual” for the river’s management are on the agency’s website at www.nwd.usace.army.mil .
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