Corps begins wildlife habitat work in NW Mo.

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers has begun work on a project in northwest Missouri to provide habitat for endangered species along the Missouri River.

The corps has issued a $7.46 million contract to improve habitat along the river for species such as the pallid sturgeon. The corps announced the project last summer, just as severe flooding along the river affected northwest Missouri, according to the St. Joseph News-Press (http://bit.ly/zuj2Fr ).

Excavation for the Dalbey Bottoms Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Site began this month in Atchison County. The corps started purchasing the nearly 1,600 acres for the project in 2007. Congress authorized the fish and wildlife mitigation effort in 1986 as a way of returning the Missouri River to a condition that resembled its original environmental state—before channelization, bank stabilization and other man-made modifications. The corps is authorized to buy up to 166,750 acres of land along 735 river miles along the lower Missouri.

Seth LaLiberty, the corps’ project manager for Dalbey Bottoms, said the project will consist of digging three chutes across the acquired land, about 10 miles south of Atchison and near the Bean Lake Bend. Work has started on the middle chute, moving north from Walnut Creek.

The project is at odds with those who want to emphasize levee protections and dial back wildlife restoration. U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., offered an amendment to the corps’ budget appropriation in July that took aim at what he called an imbalance: $73 million for habitat creation projects, he said, as opposed to $6 million for levee maintenance between Sioux City, Iowa, and the mouth of the Missouri River near St. Louis.

“Essentially, we are spending nearly 12 times more to buy land for the betterment of fish and birds than we are to protect farmers, businesses and homes that are being flooded right now,” the Republican lawmaker said on the House floor.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press, http://www.stjoenews-press.com

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