ST. LOUIS (CN) – The 8th Circuit ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act by implementing March 2006 revisions to a 2004 master water-control manual governing its management of the Missouri River.
As controller of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System, the corps has to juggle the task of controlling floods, maintaining downstream navigation and keeping in mind secondary uses, such as for irrigation, recreation, fish and wildlife.
“Forced to make difficult choices, the Corps has faced repeated lawsuits by competing beneficial users of the River as controlled by the System,” the ruling states.
In 2004 the circuit reversed an injunction stopping the corps from releasing drought-depleted waters from reservoirs in South Dakota and North Dakota. Environmentalists sued, prompting the corps to issue a revised master manual in 2004 containing environmental provisions recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A key recommendation was a “spring rise” – the pulsing of water from the Gavins Point Dam for 30 days every three years.
The action was challenged on numerous grounds by competing water users. Missouri claimed the corps adopted the revisions without preparing the environmental impact statement required by law.
The court ruled that the revisions were not arbitrary and capricious, and they did not call for a “substantial change” or “significant new circumstances.”
Also, the government’s failure to issue an impact statement did not violate the Act, since the matter had been sufficiently analyzed in a final impact statement.