Federal plan lacks plain common sense
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is in the process of holding a series of "public scoping" meetings to gather input on future management of the 11,000-acre Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. This presents interested citizens with an opportunity to learn more about the federal government's plans for not only the Missouri River but also the productive farmland found throughout the basin.
Why should you be interested? Consider another current issue; the federal government, via the Corps and USFWS, has plans to dump the equivalent of a million truckloads of soil into the Missouri River. In an unbelievable display of arrogance, these agencies argue a "paradigm shift" has resulted in the need for more sediment in the Missouri River under the auspices of an experiment to improve shallow water habitat for the pallid sturgeon.
The Corps and USFWS hope to construct 22 "chutes" along the Missouri River. These chutes are actually dredged ditches allowed to erode to approximately 300 feet in width. A $3.7 million chute being constructed near the town of Arrow Rock will be 1.85 miles long.
All told, the Missouri River Mitigation Project is expected to exceed $3 billion in tax dollars over a 30-year period. To put the magnitude of this expenditure in perspective, the $3 billion is the estimated cost to rebuild Interstate 70 from St. Louis to Kansas City. Where are our priorities?
This intentional muddying of the Missouri River is in sharp contrast to three decades of state soil conservation efforts. In the early 1980s, Missouri had the second highest rate of soil erosion in the nation. Missouri Farm Bureau helped convince voters in 1984 to adopt a 1/10th-cent state sales tax, with half of the revenue earmarked for soil conservation and the other half for state parks.
Since then, continuation of the programs was approved on two different statewide ballots. In 2006, Missouri voters approved the programs for another 10-year period by a margin of three-to-one. The sales tax generates approximately $41 million annually for Missouri soil conservation programs, which also require farmers to provide cost-share funding.
By all accounts these statewide soil conservation programs are a success. Farmers and all Missourians are proud of what they have accomplished and our efforts are recognized as a national model. Missouri soil erosion has fallen by more than 50 percent from 10.9 tons in 1982 to 5.3 tons per acre per year of cultivated cropland in 2003. It is estimated more than 158 million tons of soil will be saved over the life of soil conservation practices since the start of the program.
That brings us back to the Corps' dubious experiment.
How can it be acceptable for federal agencies to intentionally dump soil in a Missouri river when individuals can be fined for far less?
Why shouldn't farmers, who have invested their own dollars and who must comply with federal restrictions on soil erosion, feel upset with the double-standard of these federal agencies?
Elected officials ask themselves why there is such a lack of faith and a lack of trust by the American people in their government. There is no better example than what the Corps and USFWS are doing.
The lack of common sense exhibited by the Corps and USFWS, apparently with the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency, makes me wonder if saving an endangered species is the real intent. The real purpose of the mitigation program may well be to purchase as much land along the Missouri River as possible and to shut down river transportation.
The Corps has the responsibility of managing the navigable rivers of the United States of America, and I've testified before the Corps stating that somewhere along the way they lost sight of their real objective.
The Missouri River can be managed for multiple uses, including habitat preservation and commercial navigation. But experience has shown these federal agencies have little interest in the public's views of natural resource management; their so-called "listening" sessions are simply a prerequisite to requesting more taxpayer dollars.
President of the
Missouri Farm Bureau
Stoddard County, Missouri