Sorry for the length, but this should provide some additional information, especially to the ESA flow requirements
WASHINGTON, DC, April 25, 2003 (ENS) - Competing federal agencies said Wednesday that they have come to agreement on a water management plan for the Missouri River reservoirs for the late spring and summer of 2003.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said their agreement complies with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) while reinforcing the reliability of the system of reservoirs "to meet the multiple congressionally authorized project purposes."
"We have worked collaboratively with the Corps to address the issues associated with the near-term operation of the Missouri River System in 2003," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mountain-Prairie Region.
"The water management plan is for this year only, and the Service remains committed to implementing the long-term measures necessary to return ecological health to the Missouri River."
Agency officials say the agreement takes particular concern to address two migratory birds - the endangered interior least tern and the threatened piping plover. Both species are listed on the ESA and their nests can be threatened by rising river levels.
The plan is to set a release rate of 26,000 cubic feet per second to 27,000 cubic feet per second from Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, South Dakota, when the birds initiate nesting.
Additionally, use of three Kansas River Corps reservoirs that are authorized to provide Missouri River flow support will be used if appropriate.
"The Corps and Service agree that the plan minimizes impacts to the birds and loss of their nesting habitat, minimizes reservoir draw downs, and provides more reliability for the congressionally authorized purposes of the dams and reservoirs," said Brig. Gen. David Fastabend, Northwestern Division Engineer.
The Corps and the Service say they do not plan to move tern and plover eggs and chicks threatened by inundation from navigation flows.
The short term and the long term management of the Missouri River's water flow has been the subject of debate for many years. Conservationists are moving forward with a suit filed in February against the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in February for failing to update the operations of six dams that inhibit the flow of the Missouri river.
The groups seek immediate changes in dam operation to reverse the river's ecological decline and charge that by failing to update operations, the Corps is in violation of the Flood Control Act of 1944, the ESA and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The Corps has been on notice since 1990 that its current plan jeopardizes the continued existence of at least three native river species in violation of the Endangered Species Act. By favoring one river use over all others, the Corps is violating its own controlling authority on the Missouri, the Flood Control Act of 1944. And, 14 years of delay amounts to a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, but hearings have yet to be scheduled.
Army Corps officials say discussions on the the Master Manual, which governs long term water management of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System, will begin soon.