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
- Notice of Public Comment Extension and June 11 meeting.
- Original Public Notice
- Project Implementation Report (116 pp)
- Appendices A-F (project history, water quality monitoring plan, adaptive mgmt. strategy)
- Appendices G-H (Permits and Clean Water Act)
- USACE Jameson Island photo file
Clean Water Commission Meeting – 5-2-12
- "Sediment dumping in Missouri River prompts public hearing" - June 12, 2012, AgFAX -
- “Nature Finishes what engineers began on Missouri River habitat” – Nov. 1, 2010, Columbia Missourian
- “USACE addresses Clean Water Commission Concerns’ – May 4, 2012, Dredging Today
- “Agreement seeks to balance Missouri river wildlife management with water quality needs” – January 15, 2011
- Academy reviews debate over placing sediment in Missouri River” – Columbia Missourian, Sept. 28, 2010
- Environmental Law perspective - Sandra Zellmer - "Mudslinging on the Missouri & Mississippi Rivers" - Presentation at 29th Annual Water Law Conference.
- Kristen Perry, former Clean Water Commission member – “Time to stop the dirt dumping again”
- The National Academy of Science report on Missouri River sediment, completed by request from the Corps of Engineers after the Clean Water Commission stop order.