Lawmakers urge Missouri River to be added to special session
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Some lawmakers are urging Gov. Matt Blunt to add the future of the Missouri River to the agenda for a September special session.
Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, said Tuesday that he worries the Army Corps of Engineers' plan to create a spring rise in the Missouri River next year could cause flooding to Missouri farms and communities.
The corps has been required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enact a spring rise - under which water is released from upstream reservoirs into the river to provide a spawning place for the endangered pallid sturgeon. The fish's population has decreased since the corps dammed and straightened the river about 50 years ago.
Stouffer is calling for passage of a resolution that would encourage the governor and attorney general to try to block the action in federal court, and ask Missouri's congressional delegation to remember Fish and Wildlife's position when considering its budget.
Senate President pro tem Michael Gibbons said the special session should be limited to topics that urgently need to be dealt with, but that Stouffer persuaded him the Missouri River issue is pressing.
"It is urgent in the sense that whatever litigation may ensue, as well as appropriation questions, all that has to be under way way before March if it is to make a difference," said Gibbons, R-Kirkwood.
Gov. Matt Blunt has not issued the official call for the special session, but legislators expect it to begin Sept. 6. The annual veto session, during which lawmakers can attempt to override governors' vetoes, begins Sept. 14, though it is expected to be uneventful.
During the special session, lawmakers are expected to consider anti-abortion legislation; the repeal of a new law that bars government agencies from posting elected officials' addresses online; and technical fixes to drunken-driving laws and the state's workers' compensation system.
Stouffer said an intentional spring rise on the Missouri River could wreak havoc on Missouri farms, communities and roads if it occurs at the same time as heavy rains swell the river. He also said he has seen no proof that it will even help the fish it's trying to save.
"The river is risky enough on its own without having a man-made disaster," he said.