March 24, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from going forward with a man-made “spring rise” that would release water from upstream reservoirs on the Missouri River. Nixon sued the Corps to stop the rise at a time when many parts of Missouri are undergoing severe flooding caused by last week’s record rainfall.
“Many Missourians have spent the last week putting sandbags in place in order to protect homes, businesses, farms and roads from flooding,” Nixon said. “We need this order to ensure the Corps does not make this catastrophe even worse by sending more water downstream for the pallid sturgeon, where any rise would only add to the devastation along the streams and rivers that empty into the Missouri and Mississippi.”
Nixon is asking the federal district court in St. Louis to prohibit the Corps from proceeding with the spring rise scheduled for March. A hearing on the request for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday (March 25).
In 2004, the Corps revised its Master Water Control Manual, which governs operation of the Missouri River. As part of the revision, the Corps incorporated a two-part spring rise to help the spawning of the pallid sturgeon. The Manual calls for the first of the rises to occur on or about March 23, and requires the Corps to release water from the reservoirs for two full days. Despite years of study, Nixon said, the science remains uncertain but is beginning to question the benefit of the planned man-made rise for the sturgeon.
Last week, Nixon’s staff sent a letter to Col. Steven R. Miles, Commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division, expressing concern that the Corps would consider a man-made rise while widespread flooding in Missouri was responsible for several deaths and massive property damage. A return letter from the Corps received by the Attorney General on March 21 said that the Corps intended to proceed with the March spring rise beginning in the middle of the week of March 24, prompting Nixon to file his lawsuit.
“In addition to the flooding Missouri is suffering, the Corps also should not consider doing a man-made rise because many of the levees along the Missouri River that were breached by the floods of 2007 have not been fully repaired,” Nixon said. “A spring rise could cause or aggravate flooding of fields in parts of central and western Missouri that were not hit as hard by the rain, in addition to causing an entirely avoidable increase in misery for those Missourians who are being flooded out now.”
Nixon has led the fight to protect the state’s interests in the Missouri River during the 16 years he has been Attorney General, going to court numerous times as the state’s advocate on the issue.