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
Opinion
Science

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