A federal judge held the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in contempt of court yesterday for failing to lower water levels in the Missouri River to protect endangered species. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the Corps and the secretary of the Army to reduce water levels in the river as part of an injunction she issued in a lawsuit between the federal government and groups suing to restore the health of the river and protect birds and fish. Kessler has now given the Corps until Friday to comply with her order or begin paying a $500,000 fine per day. The Corps claims the judge’s order conflicts with an earlier ruling requiring it to preserve sufficient flow in the Missouri River through Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri to maintain barge traffic and power generation.