April 28, 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop a plan that calls for annual "spring rises" on the Missouri River. Nixon says the plan, which he says deviates from the Corps' Master Manual for river management, could threaten hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in Missouri.
"The Corps plan calls for releasing water from upstream reservoirs during a time of year when rainstorms in Missouri can be heavy, frequent and unpredictable," Nixon said. "Farmland along hundreds of miles of the river could be adversely affected, with farmers taking a financial hit. The Corps needs to implement any changes to the Master Manual in the appropriate and legal manner. This plan for annual spring rises circumvented the law, and we're asking the court to stop it."
Nixon's lawsuit maintains that the Corps' revisions to the Master Manual violated provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA required the Corps to prepare a new environmental impact statement before implementing the "spring rise" revision to the Master Manual, the document that controls the Corps' operation of the reservoir system on the Missouri River. The Corps revised its Master Manual in March 2004 after 15 years of statement and consultation. Spring rises - the release of water from upstream reservoirs during the spring - were rejected by the Corps during this process.
Nixon says the Corps failed to conduct the required environmental impact statement, failed to fully analyze the impacts the revisions would have on the environment, and failed to give all interested parties a full and fair opportunity to comment on the revisions. If the Corps is allowed to adopt these revisions to the Master Manual without complying with NEPA, the Corps would have unfettered discretion to make any change to the Master Manual without NEPA compliance, Nixon said in his lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Minnesota. That court has heard consolidated cases involving the Missouri River and has maintained jurisdiction over federal litigation over the river.
Nixon is asking the court to declare that any significant change to the Master Manual is a federal action significantly affecting the human environment, and that any such change requires preparation of a new environmental impact statement and full NEPA compliance prior to adopting the change; and to enjoin the Corps from implementing the revisions to the Master Manual without fully complying with NEPA.