At the request of Missouri government and agricultural leaders, Attorney General Jay Nixon filed for a temporary restraining order on March 24 to prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from going forward with a man-made "spring rise" on the Missouri River. Nixon sued the Corps to stop the rise at a time when many parts of the state are undergoing severe flooding caused by last week's record rainfall.
"Many Missourians have spent the last week putting sandbags in place in order to protect homes, businesses, farms and roads from flooding," Nixon says. "We need this order to ensure the Corps does not make this catastrophe even worse."
Nixon is asking the federal district court in St. Louis to prohibit the Corps from proceeding with the spring rise scheduled. A hearing on the request for a temporary restraining order is set for March 25.
In 2004, the Corps revised its Master Water Control Manual, which governs operation of the Missouri River. As part of the revision, the Corps incorporated a two-part spring rise to help the spawning of the pallid sturgeon. The Manual calls for the first of the rises to occur on or about March 23, and requires the Corps to release water from upper Missouri River reservoirs for two full days. Despite years of study, Nixon said, the science remains uncertain but is beginning to question the benefit of the planned man-made rise for the sturgeon.
Nixon's staff, as well as U.S. Senator Kit Bond and Missouri agricultural leaders, sent letters last week to Col. Steven R. Miles, Commander of the Corps' Northwestern Division. They expressed concern that the Corps would consider a man-made rise while widespread flooding in Missouri was responsible for five deaths and massive property damage. A return letter from the Corps received by the Nixon on March 21 said that the Corps intended to proceed with the March spring rise beginning in the middle of the week of March 24, prompting Nixon to file his lawsuit.
"All things considered, it seems that the release of a spring rise is not only insensitive, but redundant," Sen. Bond wrote. "If a natural pulse has not done the job of a man made flood, I fail to see what we are working toward. Even if the spring rise is delayed, the people of Missouri will still not have enough time to repair their levees and homes before they get another rush of water."
Charles Kruse, president of Missouri Farm Bureau, adds that every Missourian should be offended by the reckless actions of these agencies. "While many of our citizens are still fighting floodwaters from last week's rain deluge, the federal government plans to release water from dams that will raise the Missouri River by a foot in Kansas City and ½ foot in Hermann," Kruse says.
"The Corps and USFWS are dead set on proceeding with their experimental Missouri River spring rise despite the natural rise we experienced just last week. I am mystified as to why government officials are proceeding with their plans given the forecast for additional rainfall later this week. There is no fish or bird that is worth jeopardizing peoples' lives or property."