New Missouri River Management Plan Sparks Protest

A massive new plan to manage the Missouri River, released by the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, managed to please exactly nobody, in keeping with the tenor of 15 years of debate over the future of the “Big Muddy.” Conservation groups immediately protested and filed lawsuits, saying the plan ignores broad scientific consensus — captured in a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report — that the only way to restore the sandbars and wetlands needed to nurture the river’s endangered and threatened species is to reestablish its natural ebb and flow, letting the river rise in the spring and fall in the summer. “They’re proposing just to make it an industrial ditch, and to hell with everything else,” said Chad Smith, spokesperson for conservation group American Rivers. Local politicians and business interests along the river also protested, claiming that even the modest flexibility in the plan’s environmental provisions would make the river “unpredictable” and hurt the barge industry.