American Rivers has named the Missouri River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers, shining a national spotlight on outdated flood management practices that are threatening public safety.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Eileen Fretz of American Rivers. “We all need healthy rivers for drinking water, natural flood protection, economy, and quality of life. We hope citizens will join us to ensure safe communities and a healthy Missouri River for generations to come.”
The Missouri River is threatened by outdated flood management practices that compromise public safety and river health. The once wide Missouri, with extensive floodplains and shallow water areas, has been harnessed into a series of massive reservoirs on the upper river and a narrow, deep channel on the lower river.
The channelization has made flood damages worse, putting communities at higher risk. Levees and dams can no longer be the only line of defense. Restoration of the Missouri’s floodplains and wetlands, which absorb and store floodwater, must play a critical role in the next century of flood management.
American Rivers and its partners called on Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve public safety by fully funding programs that would result in natural flood protection, such as the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP), Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP), and Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS).
“League members want to see riverine habitats restored on portions of the Missouri River enabling fish and wildlife populations to become self-sustaining. This will result in a healthier river system that will provide wide-ranging benefits, including increased flood control, to all people in the Missouri River basin,” said Paul Lepisto, Regional Conservation Coordinator with the Izaak Walton League of America.
“Working to return the Missouri River to a healthy and functioning state, conservation organizations are thankful that the flood that citizens suffered June, July, and August of 2011 did not cost dozens of lives. And we are thankful that Missouri River basin residents now recognize the limits of levees, the narrow channel, and the reservoir system,” said Jim Redmond, Conservation Chair of the Northwest Iowa Group of the Sierra Club. “Whatever infrastructure the engineers have provided us, the river needs functioning floodways, wetlands, grasslands, and floodplain to achieve the risk reduction so vital in the climate change era.”
“Missouri is our state’s namesake river, but our management and care of the river needs to be planned with a multi-state, watershed view,” said Caroline Pufalt of the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Missouri is the nation’s longest river, supplying drinking water, commerce, and recreation, and impacting the safety and well-being of millions. The Missouri River was named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® in 1994-2002 because of the threats posed by dams, flood control, agricultural runoff, navigation, and bank stabilization.
Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.