Thursday, June 3, 2010

All Things Connected

Very often we get caught up in the very local scene or the project immediately at hand or the report sitting on our desk at the moment.  The same is true for those who work day in and day out on Mississippi River basin issues; we often fail to look beyond the River itself to the extensive watershed beyond the main stem.  Lest we forget, the Mississippi River doesn't exist in a vacuum, and some noteworthy news on the tributary front is worth passing on this week, specifically relating to the Missouri, Cedar, Gauley and Monongahela Rivers.

First, in the Missouri River basin: a series of public scoping meetings on the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) are being held this summer by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The MRAPS is a broad-based, Congressionally-authorized study designed to review project purposes established by the Flood Control Act of 1944, including a review of the effects of Army Corps authorized works on the Mississippi River.

The study will analyze eight authorized purposes in view of the current Basin values and priorities to determine if changes to the existing purposes and existing Federal water resource infrastructure may be warranted. Those eight authorized purposes include flood control, water supply, navigation, water quality, irrigation, recreation, hydropower, and fish and wildlife.

The MRAPS project area covers the entire Missouri River Basin and its tributaries and the scope of the review includes Army Corps projects (especially the Missouri River main stem lake projects), and a review of their impacts on the Mississippi River.  The Army Corps of Engineers is working collaboratively on the study with Tribes, Federal and State agencies, and other stakeholders within the Missouri River Basin and along the Mississippi River.

For more information, including locations and times of over 30 public scoping meetings and 11 Tribal-focused meetings scheduled across the Missouri and Mississippi River basins, see the MRAPS website.

The Cedar, Gauley and Monongahela Rivers have achieved notoriety by making American Rivers Most Endangered Rivers 2010 list, in a report released earlier this week.  Paraphrasing the American Rivers report:

The Cedar River in Iowa harbors globally rare plant communities, provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and is a popular destination for paddlers and anglers, and provides drinking water to over 120,000 people.  American Rivers concludes that "the Cedar River and the communities along its banks are threatened by antiquated flood management," threats that may be exacerbated by climate change-induced hydrological changes.

The Gauley River is formed by mountain streams within the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, and is home to a variety of fish and wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species.  Natural resources in the Gauley River watershed are threatened by impacts from mountaintop removal coal mining, especially in the Twentymile and Peters Creek watersheds. 

The Monongahela River flows from West Virginia into Pennsylvania, where it joins with the Allegheny River to form the Ohio.  The Monongahela "provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people, and is home to some of the East Coast’s best fishing, whitewater boating, and wildlife.  However, the river and its clean water are threatened by pollution created by natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale."

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