Battle over water ‘nothing new’

The battle over water levels in the Missouri River dominated last month’s annual meeting of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association in Columbia.
River-related issues, the most controversial of which is a decades-old tug-of-war between up-river and down-river interests, attracted speakers that included a congressman, a general and the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Joining Congressman Ike Skelton, Brigadier General John R. McMahon and Missouri DNR Director Mark Templeton Feb. 27 were representatives of Missouri Senators Bond and McCaskill, a spokesman for Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, the chief of staff from the Attorney General’s Office, several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers river specialists and an officer from the North Dakota Farm Bureau Foundation.
That prominent lineup was drawn to Columbia by a surge in the politics and studies surrounding Big Muddy, the nation’s longest river.
Skelton, raised on the river bluffs of Lexington, said he and his neighbors developed an early appreciation for the river’s beauty and power. However, the seven-term Democratic Congressman said the former steamboat route has lately become another pawn in Washington’s partisan politics.
“The Missouri River will continue to be a challenge in the days and years to come,” said Skelton, who praised Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican Senator, for joining him in cross-party efforts to protect Missouri’s stake in the river. “Interests up north want to keep more of the Missouri’s water up north and would like to end the river navigation that’s so important to the state’s economy.”

PHOTO: An initiative by the Missouri Department of Transportation and business interests to expand barge traffic on the river would require more predictable releases and water levels during shipping season. That’s likely to raise the stakes in the ongoing political battle over water between up- and down-river interests. (Photo by David Knopf/The Daily News)

The full story is in the Monday, March 8, 2010 edition of The Daily News.

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