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Farmers, Gov. Nixon protest Gavins Pt. release

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and the state Farm Bureau have sharply criticized a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from a dam on the South Dakota-Nebraska border.

The Corps releases the water from the Gavins Point Dam, if conditions are right, in March and May to mimic natural rises in river levels that cause two endangered fish species to spawn. The latest release, which started at noon Monday, is just the third since they were authorized in 2003.

Farmers are already weeks behind in planting because of early spring rains, said Farm Bureau president Charles Kruse.

"Is it really worth it to do something like this that the potential exists to cause harm to people in so many ways?" he asked. "I think common sense would say the answer is definitely no."

Any downstream flood risk is minimal, said Army Corps spokesman Paul Johnston. "Any increase as you get down to Hermann and Booneville we're talking less than half of foot additional water, in a condition where the river is falling anyway," he said. The Missouri River at St. Charles is expected to crest about three feet above flood stage Tuesday afternoon and start dropping, though it will remain flooded the rest of the week. The Corps failed to take into account any unexpected heavy rainfall, Kruse said.

A scientist at the Columbia Environmental Research Center in Columbia said it's too early to tell scientifically if the pulses are helping the pallid and shovelnosed sturgeon populations.

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