After nearly five years of intense study and debate, the USACE, Northwestern Division has begun to make public the operating parameters it will recommend for the future operation of the Missouri River. The recommendation comes in advance of a soon-to-be-released Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the next step in revising the controversial Missouri River Master Water Control Manual.
The recommended operating plan, or "preferred alternative," will closely mirror the recommendations of the Missouri River Basin Association (MRBA), a Missouri River advisory group appointed by basin state governors and tribal leaders. The USACE proposal will not include an intentional increase in water releases during the spring or a split navigation season ? operating alternatives strongly opposed by navigation, agriculture and flood control interests. The proposal does, however, rigorously reduce river flows at the earliest sign of a potential drought, and in doing so, severely restricts the hauling capacity and season length normally available to Missouri River navigators.
The state of Missouri, the only Missouri River basin state to withhold support for the MRBA recommendations, continues to voice concern over the long-term impact of the proposal on Missouri River navigation
, flood control and agriculture.
The USACE is finalizing its public outreach and hearing schedule at this time. The Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be published in March 2000. Beginning in May 2000, the USACE will conduct 18 public workshops followed in late summer by an estimated 18 public hearing
s and a six-month public comment period
. A final Environmental Impact Statement is expected in June 2001 with an implementation date of March 2003.