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New state coalition suggested to control Missouri River


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A political figure from Nebraska suggests teaming up with Iowa and other states in the Missouri River basin to create a new panel that would control the waterway. Record flooding of the river this summer caused tens of millions of dollars damage, much of it in western Iowa. Former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey suggests the states take back the power from the federal government, but it would likely take an act of Congress. “We need a federal law that gives those basin states authority over quality and quantity of that stream flow and have to debate it,” Kerrey says. “The representatives of the commission would have to debate what they’re going to do.”

Kerrey says another Nebraska U-S Senator, Hugh Butler, proposed creating a commission of the ten Missouri River basin states back in the 1950s. “It doesn’t produce an environment where there aren’t conflicts but it allows them to be resolved,” he says. According to Kerrey, the panel proposal would give the states the opportunity to protect residents while fully developing the river’s economic potential. Kerrey says this year re-emphasized that too often we take the Missouri River too lightly and we can’t — or shouldn’t — try to tame it.  “This is the longest river in America and it’s impossible, and I’d go further, it’s not desirable to me,” Kerrey says. “If you say to me, ‘I could engineer out all the variability of this river,’ that is not desirable to me. If you engineer all the variability out and it basically becomes an engineering project, not a river.” 

Kerrey sees protecting wildlife habitats along the Missouri River not just as an environmental issue, but an economic one. Discussion about restoring habitat along the Missouri often centers on only protecting endangered species, but he insists protecting habitat could be a financial benefit. “I’m 100% confident what would add economic value is a consequence of increased hunting, increased fishing, increased recreational efforts,” Kerrey says. “It’s also a great educational opportunity. The more modern and more developed we get, the more cut off we get from species other than our own and domesticated animals.” Kerrey won the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving with the Navy SEALS in Vietnam. He was governor of Nebraska in the mid-1980s and a U-S senator for that state from 1989 to 2001. He also ran for president as a Democrat in 1992. 

(Radio Iowa)