A federal judge in Minneapolis this week threw out a suit brought by three environmental groups that would have ordered the Corps of Engineers to lower summer flows on the Missouri River. Downstream states intervened and asked the judge to deny the request. Chad Smith, the regional representative of the group “American Rivers,” says conditions continue to decline on the Missouri. Smith says for the past several years he’s seen it first-hand while working on the river. He says people along the river are dissatisfied with how it’s managed and the Corps, plodding ahead with the status quo, has promised it’ll get funding from Congress to “do good things on the rivers,” but failed to get the money as we recently learned. Smith says the environmental groups intend to work with people up and down the multi-state Missouri basin to try and find different and better ways to manage the river. Smith says his group will keep working with state fish and wildlife agencies and other partners, in setting a direction for habitat restoration that includes the entire eco-system, from Montana down to Missouri. He says there’s too much focus on “little pieces of habitat here and there” on the lower river, and thinks we’re missing the big picture. Smith says Congress ought to get more involved in the issue of Missouri River management and do its part try to find some compromises. Smith says it’s time for Congress to start discussions about governance of the river, to get some ideas and feedback, and plot strategies to manage the river for all the people instead of a select few. Smith says the Corps is “not up to the job,” charging that the agency’s vision is too limited and it has 2 or 3 “priority constituencies that they feed,” and that’s all they care about. Continued dry conditions in the upper Missouri basin may result in record low runoff if there isn’t more snow by spring.
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