Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan Website: Challenge:

Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan
Website: http://www.moriverrecovery.org
Challenge: The Missouri River stretches over 700 miles and is one of the most regulated rivers in the
United States complying with a variety of mandates and authorities such as the endangered species act, flood
control acts, bank stabilization and navigation projects, and fish/wildlife mitigation projects. The Missouri
River Recovery Website states that the restoration of the Missouri River is necessary to determine the
actions required to mitigate losses of aquatic and terrestrial habitat; to recover federally listed species under
the Endangered Species Act; and to restore the ecosystem to prevent further declines among other native
species, while seeking to balance with social, economic, and cultural values for future generations.
According to Daniel Cusack of The Greenwire Reporter in April of 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers has
been attempting to restore the Missouri River since 2004 by removing 72 miles of damming and ditching
that had been cutting off significant portions of the river. Although the Army Corps intentions are to repair
past damage, Missouri state officials believe their restoration efforts were only making matters worse.
Cusack states, "Some critics say the restoration, while well intentioned, is degrading water quality and
damaging the livelihoods of farmers, barge operators, and others who depend on the river."
The Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP) was created to help address conflicts between
The Army Corps of Engineers, both local and federal governmental agencies , the general public, and local
stakeholders with the intent to restore ecosystem functions, mitigate habitat losses, and recover native fish
and wildlife while seeking balance with social, economic, and cultural values for future generations.
Solution: ICDD contracted with MRERP to convene and facilitate Kansas public meetings and civic
engagement meetings. These meetings were used to inform the general public and local stakeholders in the
Missouri river basin area. Additionally the meetings were also meant to address questions and concerns, so
the public could make more informed decisions. ICDD provided involvement strategies through the
previously mentioned public and civic engagement meetings in order to encourage collaboration and
communication between the governmental agencies and concerned citizens.
Public meetings were held August 1 through December 1 in 2009 in order to gather public comments.
Input was also gathered through the project website comment form as well as mail and emails sent to
MRERP.org. Through these means, government agencies were made aware of public opinion and concerns
regarding the river restoration activities. This helped to establish the inclusion of public concerns
throughout the planning and implementation of restoration projects along the Missouri River basin.
Civic engagement meetings in which small to mid-sized public workshops encouraged dialogue and
deliberation among the participants were held with the intent to foster reflection and direct learning to
create a setting to encourage positive and productive dialogue among the public.
Results: Public stakeholders were given the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue about the
restoration of the Missouri River. More than 180 participants attended eight meetings that were held
throughout the Missouri River Basin in which information was gathered regarding social, cultural, and
economic values. Information was also gathered in order to determine what the natural resource issues
were for the various areas throughout the river basin and a future vision for the river was also discussed.
Participants of the meetings expressed satisfaction with both the organization of the meetings and the
performance of the facilitators. According to an evaluation conducted by the United States Institute for
Environmental Conflict Resolution, many of the participants were grateful for the opportunity to learn
more about MRERP and interact with other stakeholders and actually have their thoughts and concerns
incorporated into the river project. While there were a few concerns about participation and the quality of
dialogue, many felt there was great value in learning of other stakeholder's concerns stating that the
meetings allowed a "human face" to be put on the issues. Some suggestions from participants included
holding longer meetings and conducting field trips to various locations on the Missouri River. Overall, the
meetings and dialogue allowed participants to realize the common interests among the different groups of
stakeholders. The meetings were also described by participants as "the essence of democracy", "inspiring
and spirited", and "a great exchange of information". Essentially, this helped to create a greater public
awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding the restoration projects in addition to building
stronger community networks between the general public and agencies responsible for implementing
restoration activities.