Monday, June 11, 2012

Public Comment wanted on Corps Jameson Island chute extension

 Text by Steve Schnarr, followed by links to several resources about the project. 

An ongoing controversy that is hitting the headlines once again surrounds the completion of the Corps of Engineers constructed chute on Jameson Island Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge near Arrow Rock, MO.

Public Comment is currently being accepted by the Corps regarding the latest phase of the project, extending the chute downstream. The Missouri Clean Water Commission is also considering whether to allow the project. In 2007, the project was halted when the Clean Water Commission put a stop order on chute construction and the dumping of sediment into the river.

The Corps is attempting to gain permission on a project that would extend the chute, moving the mouth downstream. They have proposed four alternatives on the chute construction, and the deadline for public comment on those alternatives has been extended to June 30 due to public and state pressure. The four alternatives are 1) no action, 2) Excavate a 75-foot pilot channel for the chute and stockpile the sediment along the banks, 3) Excavate the entire planned 200 foot width of the chute and stockpile the sediment outside the limits of the chute’s planned meander and 4) dredge a pilot channel for the chute, injecting all sediment as a slurry into the Missouri River.The Corps preferred alternative is #4. They say this will be the least expensive option that has the least environmental impact.

The original stop order from the Clean Water Commission was because the Corps was dumping excavated sediment into the river. The Commission said that dumping sediment in the river was illegal for developers and farmers and it should not be legal for the Corps of Engineers. The Corps stopped work on the chute, which was eventually opened up by natural high river flows. In last year’s high water flows the chute took more of the river’s flow than allowed. This past winter the Corps placed a flow and grade control structure near the head of the chute to reduce and control flow through the chute.

The Corps also requested a study be done by the National Academy of Science into the impact on water quality and gulf hypoxia by their restoration projects, which always involve introducing new sediment into the river either by excavation or erosion. The NAS study was released in 2010 and concluded that the Missouri River and the Mississippi Delta are starved for sediment, nearly 80% of which is trapped behind the mainstem Missouri dams. NAS saw no significant impact from the projects.

The Corps agreed to requests to extend the public comment period. There will be a public meeting on June 11, and the public comment period ends June 30.

This post will contain a variety of links and photos regarding the project to help you understand the history, context and meaning of the controversy. 

Corps Public Comment and documents related to the Jameson Island Chute
Clean Water Commission Meeting – 5-2-12
Newspaper Articles
Marshall Democrat News articles, Marshall, MO

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Asian Carp may find back way

Originally published May 13, 2012 in the Albert Lea Tribune - Albert Lea, MN.
Click here for original link. 

MINNEAPOLIS — There’s a back door for Asian carp to sneak into Minnesota, and fisheries officials are worried that the invaders might have found it already.

Commercial fishermen recently caught dozens of Asian carp in northwestern Iowa’s Great Lakes, one of that state’s most popular vacation spots. Those waters connect with lakes and streams in southwestern Minnesota, so the haul came as an unwelcome surprise to Minnesota officials who’ve been more focused on the higher-profile fight against Asian carp infiltrating up the Mississippi River.

“We view it as a big threat. …These fish don’t recognize political boundaries,” said Ryan Doorenbos, area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Windom.

No bighead or silver Asian carp have been caught in southwestern Minnesota, but a few have been netted on the east side of the state in the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. Officials have been trying for a few years to develop a strategy to stop them from advancing up the Mississippi past Minneapolis, but they’ve just started studying their options for the southwest.

Returning to the River

Video originally published May 12, 2012 on WOWT - Omaha. 
Click here for original link and to view video.

by Gary Smollen
The impact of last summers flood along the Missouri River can still be seen in many areas. People are returning to the river but in some cases some efforts to make things right have been slowed by bureaucracy and thieves.

All along the river there are piles of sand and silt left behind by the receding water. As the Missouri returned inside its banks the people started returning to their recreational areas but it some cases they were totally wiped out.

Channel 6 News was there as one campsite was evacuated last year, on Saturday we returned to see how things have changed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Officials advise caution with low releases

 Releases from Gavins Point Dam reduced to zero with spillway tests

This article was originally published in the Yankton Press & Dakotan on May 9, 2012
Click here to read original news story link.

Also, here's a couple links to Yankton P&D stories regarding the same story:
From P&D Staff Reports
The National Park Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are reminding the public to use caution today (Wednesday) as releases at Gavins Point Dam will be halted in order for a damage assessment to be conducted.

Water releases will be reduced beginning at 6 a.m. and continue incrementally until they reach 0 cfs. The releases will remain at 0 cfs for no more than eight hours and will be slowly increased back to normal flow levels. The river level is forecast to drop by eight feet at Yankton and will fall to similar levels downriver. Flow levels may change without notice.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Missouri River flooding fractures farm life on Nebraska Teardrop

This article was originally published in the Nebraska City News Press on April 27, 2012
 Click here to read original news story link. 
By Dan Swanson
 Additional links:

Nebraska City, Neb. —
Like the federal flood levee that finally gave way to the Missouri River near Hamburg, Iowa, this summer, Clayton Lang's life is fractured.

It's a perilous time to plant a crop, he said, when wind can whip up enough dirt to bury an emerging seedling or drive enough sand to shred plants the moment they appear on the barren, brown landscape.

“It looks like a desert out there,” Lang said. “I don't see how some of the bottom ground will ever be farmed again. It's just open and barren. There's no color to it,” he said.

Big Muddy News back in action

post by Steve Schnarr

Well, basically our Big Muddy News blog, a feed of news stories about the Missouri River, has been on hiatus since last fall. When we initially started this blog, there was rarely much news to report about the Missouri River. With the Great Flood of 2011, that changed. I tried to keep up with posting through the beginnings of the flood, but when River Relief's Big Muddy Clean Sweep project started, I just didn't have time to keep up.

There continues to be a lot of news about the Missouri River, and I'm attempting to pick this up again. Time is always an issue, but it is important to share all of the news as it's happening, so I'll do my best. I apologize for not keeping this up, but pledge to do better in the future.

In addition to posting new stories, I'd like to fill in some important past stories as well. If you know of a particularly good news source, story or link that you think I should back-post, please let me know. It all helps create a searchable archive for research and understanding. Send ideas to our email. 

There are a lot of decisions being made right now, some with only partial information, about how we live with the Missouri River. I hope this blog can be yet another source of good information accessible on the web.

See you on the river,
Steve Schnarr
Missouri River Relief

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Missouri River Relief plans "learning festival" for county students in Hermann in October

This article was originally published in the Gasconade County Republican on Wednesday, August 31. 

By Dave Marner
Plans for a “learning festival” based along, and on the Missouri River, for county high school and middle school students are being finalized as Missouri River Relief prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary of cleaning the “Big Muddy.”

Students from Owensville High School, Owensville Middle School, the Hermann school district, and St. George, have been invited to attend separate day-long programs based on shore and on the Living Lands and Waters garbage barge River Relief will be using as the group travels down river from Jefferson City to St. Charles during October. Missouri River Relief is a Missouri Stream Team member based in Columbia, Mo., which has conducted large-scale cleanups from Yankton, S.D, to the mouth of the Missouri where it meets the Mississippi River. Students and faculty chaperones will have the chance to participate in several stations of land-based educational programs presented by professionals from the various agencies assisting River Relief staff.

Staff from the Gasconade and Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Farm Service Agency are scheduled to be participating in the program.

With river levels expected to drop over the next month, River Relief is also planning to have water-based learning stations which could include instruction on aquatics, biology, and water quality issues.

School administrators discussed curriculum issues with Barrow and the agency representatives planning to participate in an effort to design learning experiences which will match up with each school’s educational programs.

“This is exciting,” said Barrow who was making his second planning trip to Owensville for the project. He also met last Thursday with school officials in Hermann. “I’m really excited.”

“Our teachers are really looking forward to this,” said Kurt Keller, principal at OHS.

Part of the experience will include the chance for students to help clean a section of the river’s shoreline under the supervision of trained MRR personnel. That aspect of the experience was something Teresa Ragan, principal at OMS, would strongly support. “Service learning gives something back to the community,” said Ragan.

OHS students are scheduled to attend the festival on Tuesday, Oct. 4, OMS attends Wednesday, Oct. 5, and Hermann students are invited on Thursday, Oct. 6.