SierraScape September 2012 - February 2013
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Fracking Missouri River Water?
by Caroline Pufalt
faces many threats as it is asked to be
all things to all people.
Last year the unprecedented 2011 flood focused attention
on our desire to control its banks and live and work in its floodplain.
This year the
Army Corps of Engineers
is opening a major review of water supply and storage in light of additional
"demands" from industry and municipalities for more water.
This new review is open for public comment and will result
eventually in an
Environmental Impact Statement or EIS.
Unfortunately the result may be that industries using wasteful
water practices will pay for water that would otherwise be used
for environmental restoration, recreation or drinking water.
The six reservoirs along the river currently provide water
storage primarily for flood control, reservoir recreation and
releases for navigation. But the Corps' recent notice proposes
that portions of the reservoir space be available for purchase
by industry. That industry is assumed to include major demands
from fracking interests.
Most Sierrans will have heard of environmental problems associated
with the "fracking" process for gas and oil drilling.
Fracking requires large amounts of water mixed with chemicals
injected for drilling. Recovered water is often too polluted
to return to its source. The process may also pollute existing
ground water sources. For more on fracking see:
With growing amounts of gas and oil fracking in the Dakotas
and other parts of the MO river basin, the industry demands for
MO river water could be huge. The Corps has charged itself with
trying to assess current and future industrial water needs in
the basin. This could be problematic given industry pressure
and the Corps' historically poor economic projections, such
as the failed forecasts for navigation levels on the MO river.
Gas and oil drilling will be part of our energy mix for many
years, but if we are to meet the challenge of climate change
we will need to reduce that proportion. And we need to insist
on improved drilling processes that will reduce water use and
protect water quality. But, if the Corps' projection of use
only foresees a continuation and growth of current wasteful fracking
practices, then industry demands for increased water will be
The Corps review includes considerations from municipal sources
also. This would most likely be for drinking water and in fact
many large and small municipalities already use MO water. St
Louis is one. But that water has not to date been tied to specific
storage space in reservoirs. What impact this new ability to
purchase such space would have on existing uses is unclear.
Would cities who have bought storage space have priority over
those who have not? Who would have priority in a drought?
The Corp review announcement indicates that new purchasers
might have the opportunity to "compensate" losses to
other users and purposes. Where does this leave overall aquatic
health and fish and wildlife needs? As we know, the purchasing
power of those interests is limited.
At this writing there are many unanswered questions about
this review. But it is clear that this proposal could bring significant
and damaging change to the river. Now is the time to ask questions
and raise concerns about protecting MO river water from wasteful
uses. And it's time to speak up for environmental protection
and restoration of the Missouri.
Check the MO chapter web site for more information on this
The Corps announcement for this project is Federal Document
2012 17591. Title is, Intent To Prepare An Integrated Water
Supply Storage Reallocation Report; Environmental Impact Statement
For Missouri River Municipal And Industrial (M&I) Reallocation.
Comments can be mailed to: G. Jarrett, CENWOPM-AA, US Army
Corps of Engineers, 1616 Capitol Ave, Omaha NE 68102.