Some sixty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began the process of taming the Missouri by constructing a series of six dams. The idea was simple: massive dams at the top moderating flow to the smaller dams below, generating electricity while providing desperately needed control of the river's devastating floods...
But after about thirty years of operation, as the environmentalist movement gained strength throughout the seventies and eighties, the Corps received a great deal of pressure to include some specific environmental concerns into their MWCM (Master Water Control Manual, the "bible" for the operation of the dam system). Preservation of habitat for at-risk bird and fish populations soon became a hot issue among the burgeoning environmental lobby. The pressure to satisfy the demands of these groups grew exponentially as politicians eagerly traded their common sense for "green" political support.
Things turned absurd from there. An idea to restore the nation's rivers to a natural (pre-dam) state swept through the environmental movement and their allies. Adherents enlisted the aid of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), asking for an updated "Biological Opinion" from the FWS that would make ecosystem restoration an "authorized purpose" of the dam system. The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.
The Corps "fixed" the rivers so that people could farm, and build cities, and use them as transport. Then, at the whim of people who mostly live elsewhere, the Corps was told to undo parts of that protection, leaving the people at risk. We are now seeing the consequences of that choice.
Greg Pavelka, a wildlife biologist with the Corps of Engineers in Yankton, SD, told the Seattle Times that this event will leave the river in a "much more natural state than it has seen in decades," describing the epic flooding as a "prolonged headache for small towns and farmers along its path, but a boon for endangered species." He went on to say, "The former function of the river is being restored in this one-year event. In the short term, it could be detrimental, but in the long term it could be very beneficial."I know lots of people who talk like that. Everything for the birds and bees and fish, and nothing left for man. I'm waiting for the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a plan to restore bear, wolves, cougars and elk to Manhattan Island. I'd love to see the look on the faces of the New Yorker liberal elite as they try to build a coherent argument against it.
Read the whole thing.