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Archive for Sunday, September 8, 2002

Low water levels halted barge traffic

September 8, 2002

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— The Missouri River was so low during the summer that barge traffic came to a halt on July 20, and did not resume until after Aug. 14, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported Saturday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wanted to release more water upstream, but were stymied by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which worried that the water would flood the eggs of two species of birds along the riverbank, Corps spokesman Paul Johnston said.

The eggs belonged to piping plovers and interior least terns, which had placed their nests close to the edge of the water, just south of the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota.

The least tern is a small, gull-like bird listed on the federal endangered species list. Piping plovers are listed as threatened. About 730 piping plover adults have been counted along the Missouri, along with 1,134 adult least terns. Raising the river in July might have swamped 270 eggs or chicks.

The halt has the barge industry worried that endangered species trumped the need to keep river levels high enough to navigate.

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