Judge Orders Army Corps to Lower Missouri River Water Level

In a victory for environmentalists, a federal judge in Minnesota has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lower water levels in the Missouri River to protect three endangered species. The ruling represents the latest twist in a 20-year battle that pits enviros against the Army Corps, which seeks to keep water levels high to maintain Missouri River barge traffic. The corps had refused to comply with a recent court order to lower the water levels, citing conflicting rulings elsewhere. That argument didn’t hold water for Judge Paul Magnuson, who ordered the corps to lower the river to protect the least tern, the Great Plains piping plover, and the pallid sturgeon. Magnuson essentially concluded that the Endangered Species Act takes precedence over shipping, flood control, and other river-management considerations.