St. Louis Public Radio News
2:05 pm
Fri July 25, 2003

Six Lawsuits Over Missouri River Sent to Minnesota

Washington, DC – Six lawsuits, some of which have produced conflicting court rulings on how deep the Missouri River should be, are now headed to a federal court in Minnesota.

Judge Paul Magnuson will now decide whether the river should be kept high to protect barge traffic or lowered to protect endangered species. The Justice Department Thursday asked Magnuson for emergency stays until the matter is reviewed. He has not yet responded to that request.

The Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation decided Thursday to make the move to Minnesota

The order removes jurisdiction from U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, D.C. She ruled the U.S. Corps of Engineers in contempt on Tuesday after she had ordered the agency to drop water levels on the Missouri, or pay $500,000 a day beginning today.

It's unclear how the transfer will affect the contempt ruling and the sanctions.

At issue is the Endangered Species Act, and whether it takes priority over barge shipping, flood control and other uses of the river.