The Missouri River basin once was a site of major sediment research. Over time, however, priorities shifted, expertise on Missouri River sediment has dwindled, and there has been a decline in the attention paid to overall data collection, management, analysis, archiving, and access. Historical Missouri River sediment data are extensive, and there are important studies of sediment dynamics being conducted today in the basin, including ongoing collaborative efforts between Corps of Engineers and USGS scientists. In general, however, sediment-related data and studies are diffuse and scattered across the basin in a variety of locations and a variety of formats. A more systematic platform of sediment measurements, data archiving, and systemwide modeling knowledge will be necessary to support efficient decision making for ecosystem management initiatives.
The systems and processes for evaluating, archiving, and retrieving Missouri River sediment are fragmented and not well organized. These gaps are of special concern given plans for future investments in Missouri River ecosystem management and reevaluation of authorized purposes for the Missouri River mainstem dams and the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project. Effective project implementation, operations, and management requires useable knowledge of sediment dynamics; this includes quantities and fluxes of suspended and coarse bedloads, and changes in sediment storage and resultant changes in channel morphology. More informed future Missouri River resource management decisions would benefit from a comprehensive and accessible Missouri River sediment database and sediment budget.
Corps of Engineers and USGS scientists have been conducting valuable collaborative investigations of Missouri River sedimentary processes that should be used as the foundations for a more detailed and extensive sediment budget. Over time, continued collaboration may lead to a more formal program for data collection and evaluation. The Corps and the USGS should extend their collaborative efforts and develop a detailed Missouri River sediment budget from the headwaters to the river’s mouth, with provisions for continuing revisions and updates as new data become available.