The Corps of Engineers' proposed new plan for managing the flow of the Missouri River would cost more than $1 billion over 30 years, primarily to create new habitat for endangered fish and bird species. But the Corps' final environmental impact statement for the Missouri River "Master Manual" and the draft manual itself, released Feb. 27, drew a heavy attack from environmental organizations, which say the agency failed to alter the river's flow in a significant way.

Plan includes 1,200 acres of new habitat for pallid sturgeon (Photo courtesy of Corps of Engineers
Northwestern Division)

A federal judge has directed the Corps to issue a final version of the revised Master Manual by March 19. Environmental groups say they will ask the judge to order the Corps to change the Missouri's flow patterns.

Managing the Missouri River is a constant balancing act, with upstream interests seeking to retain more water there for recreational purposes squaring off against downstreamers, who want more water released to their areas, to aid barge traffic.

The head of the Corps' Northwestern Division, Brig. Gen. William Grisoli, said that the plan "is the best balance for serving the purposes authorized by Congress, meets the


Corps' trust and treaty obligations to federally recognized tribes and complies with the environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act."
Corps officials say a key part of the plan is creating 1,200 acres of new habitat by July 1 for the pallid sturgeon, one of three threatened or endangered species at issue on the Missouri.

But Tom France, counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, says, "The Corps' piecemeal approach to river management won't work. The Corps must look at the entire Missouri River system and restore natural flows throughout its length."

Another important element of the plan, Corps officials say, is a set of new water conservation measures to deal with the current drought in the region. They are aimed at taking action earlier in a drought period than under the current system.