loads of certain grain and nutrient composition, then discharges consistent with those criteria would be allowable. However, if the segment-specific and tributary-specific criteria are to be met, then under the Clean Water Act, rules governing sediment discharges appropriate to that receiving water will apply uniformly to all sources of sediment, including sources from private lands, public facilities, and Corps of Engineers restoration activities.
Congress continues to create authorities and responsibilities that leave the Corps effectively as the “water master” of the Missouri River, and hence sediment manager, as well. Congress authorized the Corps to execute MRERP and the authorized purposes study, and to propose plans to update and synchronize the multiple legislative directives under which the Corps now operates. Meanwhile, Congress created MRRIC to strengthen shared decision making, but MRRIC has only recently begun its operation and its roles and responsibilities have yet to be clarified. The role of MRRIC in relation to the role of the Corps will need to be defined within the setting of occasional cross-purposes of river users, limits of the river’s resources to meet all user demands, and the increasing powers and responsibilities of multiple federal, state, and tribal agencies granted by environmental laws, especially the Endangered Species Act. In the decades immediately following authorization of the Pick-Sloan Plan, the Corps of Engineers played a clear role as the water master of the Missouri River and its dam and reservoir system. Today, however, the setting of Missouri River governance is very different. For example, several recent, major river management initiatives and studies—such as the 2000/03 Biological Opinion and the mitigation program—have added greatly to compliance requirements for the Corps. In addition, states, tribes, commercial interests, and nongovernmental organizations now seek a more active voice and role in river management decisions. At the same time, the Corps of Engineers retains authority to operate the Missouri River dam and reservoir system. These many changes have complicated the Missouri River governance structure for the Corps and others as they try to reach agreement on programs such as Biological Opinion program implementation, broader ecosystem recovery, and sediment management planning.
The Missouri River Recovery and Implementation Committee has the potential to play a central role in building consensus among a broad group of federal agencies and stakeholders in matters related to water and sediment management. To help realize that potential, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works should periodically review the MRRIC mission statement, operational rules, and accomplishments; implement modifications to the mission, rules, and operations as deemed appropriate; and report its results to the Congress.