A meeting on the Missouri River continues today (Thursday) to let the public talk about plans for a spring “rise” that would replicate natural flows and encourage endangered birds to thrive. Paul Johnston with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the agency wants input from people who live in the Missouri River Basin, to define what the spring rise should be. The Fish and Wildlife Service gave its biological opinion that a spring rise was necessary to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of the pallid sturgeon, so the Corps is asking regular folks to help tell it what that plan should look like. Johnston says the final plan will be a longterm one, designed to direct the river’s control after the current drought has ended. How often should the Corps do the rise, he says, under what conditions would they make it happen and should they run it during the drought. When the water’s already very high he says you clearly wouldn’t manage the big dams on the river to cause a further rise, but at what point would you cut it off? For this kind of questions, he says the answers should have the “buy-in” of people all up and down the river. The Corps already took action this spring to protect nesting birds on the banks. They fluctuated releases of water a bit, to encourage the birds to nest a little higher on the sandbars, as they tend to do it close to the water — so the nests wouldn’t get washed out. Right now, they’re maintaining a steady release that’ll continue as long as the Corps can meet downstream targets. There will be more public meetings throughout the summer and a final public workshop on the final proposal in Omaha before the end of July. Today’s meeting is in St. Joseph, Missouri, at Missouri Western State College.
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