America's Most Endangered Rivers
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A national conservation organization has identified the Missouri River as one of the most endangered in the United States.
The Washington, D.C.-based American Rivers said this week that the health of the Missouri and the safety of people around it were threatened because of “outdated flood management practices.”
“The once wide Missouri, with extensive floodplains and shallow water areas, has been harnessed into a series of massive reservoirs on the upper river and a narrow, deep channel on the lower river,'' American Rivers said in a statement. “The channelization has made flood damages worse, putting communities at higher risk.”
Marian Maas of Bellevue, a retired biologist and a member of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation board of directors, pointed to the 2011 flood as evidence that the status quo for the Missouri is not good enough.
She said levees, instead of being built right up next to the river, should be set back where possible. Doing so in populated cities like Omaha isn't feasible, but giving the Missouri more capacity elsewhere would decrease the risk of flooding and make the river safer for those who live around it.
“It would be good for the managers of the river to look at new approaches for handling flood control,” she said. “Obviously, in the past it hasn't worked that well. ... It will flood again.”
In some cases, flood-damaged levees are already being rebuilt farther away from the river than before, including in part of Fremont County, Iowa.
Doing so might create more backwaters and sloughs, increasing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities, Maas said.
The Missouri was also named one of the country's most endangered rivers from 1994 to 2002.
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