Go to original document

A PROPOSAL to Provide the Scientific Foundation for Missouri River Management

The Issues (click here to learn about the issues considered in designing the MoREAP)

The Missouri River is 2,341 miles long and drains one-sixth of the United States. It is home to about 10 million people in 10 states and 28 Native American tribes. In the past 60 years, one-third of the river has been channelized and another third impounded. These changes have provided important benefits for Missouri River Basin citizens but also significantly altered the ecosystem. Today, numerous fish and wildlife species are federally-listed as endangered, threatened or species of special concern.

The river flow is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) which controls the large main stem reservoirs on the upper river. The Corps works to balance many, sometimes competing uses of the river system: flood control, navigation, irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, municipal and industrial water supplies, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife, including endangered species, through their Master Water Control Manual (Master Manual). Any decision made about one use may impact others.

The 1988-92 Great Plains drought so negatively impacted the upper basin recreational economy and lower river navigation that it prompted a review of the Corps Master Manual which governs reservoir operations. This review focused attention not only on river water allocation issues, but on the fish and wildlife resource problems. In 1994, the Corps conducted public hearings for the Master Manual Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The hearings clearly demonstrated the many, and sometimes conflicting, human demands made upon the river system, and also demonstrated a general consensus on the need to collect comprehensive, long-term natural resource data to understand the effects of any future river management decisions.

Following the public hearings, the Corps asked the Missouri River Basin Association (MRBA) to help develop elements of a river operating plan that would be more acceptable to basin states and tribes. Created in 1981 by the Governors of the basin states, the MRBA represents the various river users, coordinates planning activities, and resolves water management issues. The MRBA confirmed the need for a basin-wide environmental assessment program and requested planning assistance from the Missouri River Natural Resources Committee (MRNRC), a group of state fish and wildlife agency representatives whose mission is to implement a systems approach to Missouri River natural resource management.

The Program

In 1996, the MRNRC and the U.S. Geological Survey=s Biological Resources Division (USGS-BRD), through its State Partnership Program, initiated a partnership of 79 scientists and river managers who developed the Missouri River Environmental Assessment Program (Program). The Program goal is to provide the scientific basis for balanced management of the Missouri River=s main stem and floodplain fish and wildlife resources while avoiding or minimizing conflicts with other river uses.

The Program proposes to expand existing monitoring programs and initiate new monitoring efforts to assess the biological, physical, and chemical responses to changes in Missouri River system operation and management. It will generate a system-wide database on Missouri River water quality, habitat, and biota and define the baseline environmental condition of today=s river.  The Program includes two primary components: 1) long-term resource monitoring to define the baseline condition of river resources and identify trends along with 2) focused investigations, to predict cause-and-effect relationships between Corps operations and fish and wildlife resources. New data generated from the Program will provide benefits for not only fish and wildlife managers, but a wide range of other users river interests including the Corps, the tribes, commercial navigators, floodplain managers, farmers, power generators, recreationists, agriculture, hydropower, recreation, and municipal and industrial water users.

The Program proposes 5 state-run field stations located in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota with shared stations for Iowa/Nebraska and Missouri/Kansas. It would have a central scientific support facility administered by the USGS-BRD in Columbia, MO. Field stations would be located in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota with shared stations for Iowa/Nebraska and Missouri/Kansas. The Program will integrate, but not duplicate, the data generated by existing state fish and wildlife and water quality monitoring and assessment programs on the river. The state fish and wildlife monitoring programs alone represent a state contribution of over $1.8 million to river monitoring. Both fish and wildlife and water quality monitoring by the Missouri River states represent a substantial non-Federal contribution to the Program. The program is proposed for 15 years with the option to extend the entire program or individual components if needed. Total annual program cost is estimated at $12.5 million with $10.7 million contributed by the Federal government and $1.8 million by the states. In addition to the annual Federal share of $10.7 million, first year start-up costs are estimated to be $3.3 million.


The Missouri River has been highly modified to serve the basin=s population and economy. The Program seeks to identify successful, cost-effective approaches to conserving and rehabilitating the river=s fish and wildlife populations while maintaining current benefits provided to residents of the Missouri River basin.

Federal Authorization

The MRBA and MRNRC are seeking authorization for the Program. These organizations are talking with members of Congress on the need for the Program.


For more information, please contact: 

Missouri River Basin Association
Richard Opper, Executive Director
P.O. Box 301
Lewistown, MT 59497
Missouri River Natural Resources Committee
Mike LeValley, Coordinator
US Fish and Wildlife Service
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555
Michael Mac
Columbia Environmental 
Research Center
4200 New Haven Road
Columbia, MO 65201
Web site http://infolink.cr.usgs.gov

  * Get the full document in pdf format. Note:  The full document is 41 megabytes. To obtain a print copy please email Jeanne Heuser with your postal information.   To obtain the most recent version of the Adobe Acrobat Reader visit Adobe's web site.

back to the top