A federal judge in Saint Paul has ruled in favor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a challenge by environmentalists who said the agency charged with managing the Missouri River hadn’t done enough to accommodate endangered species. Paul Johnston points out that judge Paul Magnusen in St. Paul combined several legal challenges over the Missouri River’s management into one case that produced this week’s ruling. The suits dealt with topics including how much river water’s in storage, aspects of the 1944 flood-control act, and the Endangered Species Act, many different factors to consider. Johnston says since the drought remains over western states, the battles over the river’s inadequate supply of water and how much dams should keep upstream and cities should get downstream will continue.It gets tougher in times of drought, with so many competing interests, but the Corp’s continued to supply water for all users — just at a lower level. He calls it kind of a “knife-edge” keeping that balance, though often not all the users are happy. Johnston says the courts have not proved the best way to settle disputes over the river’s management.The lawsuits were consolidated because they all dealt with one topic, though in more than one jurisdiction, and while they clarified that the corp’s actions ARE subject to review by the courts, it also showed that doing it that way is slow, expensive, and doesn’t always work out the way folks would like. The ruling is not related to the week’s other announcement that a project to create shallow-water habitat is complete, and is expected to help the endangered fish on the Missouri.
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