Tell Congress Missouri River Restoration = Flood Protection
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Tell Congress to support restoration and long-term planning on the Missouri River!
The nation’s longest river, the Missouri River, is back on the America’s Most Endangered Rivers list at #4 [PDF] this year. We need your help to keep the Missouri River on the road to recovery and stop misguided efforts to undo river restoration.
When Lewis and Clark crossed the Missouri River it was a free river with natural flows that fluctuated with the seasons and wide floodplains that supported abundant fish and wildlife. The river soon became the gateway to the West and the U.S. Army Corps was charged with making the river deep enough for navigation and preventing the spring and summer floods by building dams, levees, and a navigation channel— actions that destroyed fish and wildlife habitat and the natural functions of the river.
While far from recovered, over the past decade or so the Missouri has been moving in the right direction— the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP) is undertaking projects to restore the river and its floodplains to provide fish and wildlife habitat; the Army Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Program (MRERP), a long-term plan for restoring the river over the next 50 years; and Congress instructed the Corps to determine whether we should still manage the river based on ideas from 1944 with the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) or if the needs of the basin have changed.
However, after 2011’s massive flooding, those who are content with the status quo and oppose restoration of the Missouri River saw an opportunity to stop these efforts. Congress voted to prevent the Corps from spending money on MRERP and MRAPS. This year the MRRP is at risk and an attempt has already been made to reduce funding for restoration projects and redirect it towards building more levees and further channelizing the river.
If we learned anything from the 2011 floods it should be that levees and dams aren’t enough to stop all floods. Restoring floodplains to give the river a little more room to hold flood water needs to be part of the solution. Restored floodplains and wetlands help reduce pressure on levees which makes them less likely to fail and damage homes and communities. Congress needs to recognize that the restoration efforts that are already underway will help protect people from flooding.
This wasn’t the first time the Missouri River flooded and it won’t be the last. Management of all rivers must be flexible enough to deal with the more extreme floods [PDF] and droughts that will result from climate change. For the Missouri River, long term planning like MRERP and MRAPS are critical to adapt to a more volatile climate.
Help us keep the Missouri River on the road to recovery. Tell Congress to support restoration and long-term planning on the Missouri River!