Missouri River Restoration

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Published on: May. 16, 2013

damage that led Congress to authorize the Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project in 1986. The Mitigation Project was authorized to purchase, from willing sellers, 166,750 acres in the Missouri River floodplain below Sioux City. The project was designed to restore fish and wildlife habitats, while retaining the Corps’ missions of navigation and flood damage reduction.

The pallid sturgeon was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1990. In 2000, the USFWS published a Biological Opinion concerning the pallid sturgeon that established the need to improve habitat. This helped further the Mitigation Project, allowing sites to be constructed for the benefit of this ancient and now rare fish. In 2007, all these efforts were combined into a single program called the Missouri River Recovery Program.

Once land is acquired through the Recovery Program, habitat restoration plans are developed in coordination with the general public, local levee and drainage districts, and state and federal agencies, including the Department of Conservation. Projects include work in bottomland forests and grasslands and riverine and wetland areas. Shallow-water habitat is critical for pallid sturgeon recovery and is defined as side channels, backwater areas, sandbars detached from the bank, and low lying areas adjacent to the bank. Much of riverine restoration is focused on these areas. Wetland features that are being restored or created include scour holes, oxbows, and other wetland types.

Reconnecting the main channel of the river to side channels, backwaters, and the floodplain is another goal of habitat restoration on the Missouri River. Recent research suggests that overbank flooding is important because it causes an increase in invertebrates (insects, worms, crayfish, etc.), which are an important part of the river’s food chain. Two methods used for floodplain reconnection are opening levees and levee setbacks on mitigation lands. This provides for a dynamic habitat that is beneficial for fish and wildlife and provides additional outdoor recreation opportunities that are not available on other areas.

Recovery Program Accomplishments

Accomplishments over the past 27 years under these restoration programs include the purchase of more than 63,000 acres from willing sellers in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Restoration efforts have resulted in substantial gains in shrub lands (167 percent), grasslands (119 percent), forest (24 percent), and wetlands (13 percent). In Missouri, approximately 31,000 acres have been acquired at 28 sites in 16 of the 25 river counties. The Department

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