EPA has determined that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Draft Environmental Impact Statement presents insufficient scientific information to support dredging permits allowing sand and gravel removal from the Missouri River. The applicant’s proposal would allow the removal of 11,615,000 tons per year of main channel river bottom material.
EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said, “Adequate science is lacking to support issuance of the requested dredging permits. The proposal could contribute to significant riverbed loss in three segments of the river and result in damage to levees and bridges, increased flood risk and environmental damage.”
Under the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review the environmental impact of federal proposals. The Corps of Engineers will consider EPA’s comments as it prepares a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The final EIS will contain the Corps’ preferred dredging amount.
Dredging is one of several factors contributing to riverbed degradation. Riverbed degradation can threaten bank stability, erode levee foundations and eliminate adjacent wetlands. Dredging usually occurs in close geographic proximity to locations where the construction need is greatest, such as cities along the Missouri River including Jefferson City, Kansas City, St. Charles and St. Joseph, Mo.
The removal of sand and gravel from the river channel has been closely associated with the lowering of the riverbed, particularly in segments of the river where dredging is most concentrated. Under a separate federal project, the USACE is working with local partners to fund and perform a feasibility study on solutions to the riverbed loss problem in the lower river and, particularly, the Kansas City reach of the river.
Active commercial sand and gravel dredging in the lower Missouri River began in the 1930s largely to support construction and road building. Sand and gravel dredging removal has increased from 250,000 tons per year in 1935 to about seven million tons in recent years.
EPA oversees the protection of water quality as required by the Clean Water Act. The Agency is working with the public, community leaders, local, state and federal agencies to address growing demands on the nation's water resources.