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Missouri River On Endangered Rivers List

May 15, 2012, 5:06 PM by Peggy Moyer

Missouri River On Endangered Rivers List

One of South Dakota's greatest natural resources is near the top of an endangered list.

The Missouri River is number four on America's Most Endangered Rivers list of 2012.

It's not pollution, mining or dredging that threatens the Missouri River, but an outdated flood management plan.

"The Missouri is in trouble. It wouldn't have been on this American Rivers list if it wouldn't have been," The Izaak Walton League, Regional Conservation Coordinator for the Missouri River, Paul Lepisto said.

Lepisto coordinates conservation efforts along the Missouri River in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. He believes last year's flooding brought attention to the river and with it, a place on America's Most Endangered Rivers list of 2012.

So as the Corps of Engineers works to update the river's flood management plan, lots of special interest groups want the Corps to hear their concerns.

"There's always going to be that natural conflict because the river is going to have many users and it was set up with many different authorized purposes," Missouri National Recreational River superintendent Steve Mietz said.

Hydroelectric power, flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation are some of the authorized uses of the waterway.  But today, groups say these authorized uses, originally declared in 1944, could stand to be updated for everyone's benefit.

"Long-term planning needs to be done where we're looking at what's best for the river. What's best for the people in the basin? What makes the most economic sense going forward, not what was designed 68 years ago when the '44 flood control act was written," Lepisto said.

There are many coalitions with different interests in the waters of the Missouri River and the land surrounding it. However, the one point they all come together on and agree on is that the Missouri River recovery budget in Washington, D.C., needs to stay funded in order for this natural resource to exist.

The Missouri River flows for 2,300 miles and is the longest river in the United States. This is the first time the Missouri River has been on the American Rivers Endangered List. 

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