A barge filled with 13-hundred tons of fertilizer was moved this week because of concerns that reduced water flows could ground the vessel in the Missouri River. The barge, which holds enough fertilizer to fill 134 semi-trailers, was moved closer to the shore. Officials say it could be unloaded there if the river flow is reduced by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Indeed, barge navigation on the Missouri has become a major concern as a legal scrap between the Corps and a federal judge unfolds.
The Army Corps of Engineers this week refused to cut water levels in the Missouri River, despite a federal court order to reduce the flow in order to protect endangered wildlife.
Corps officials claim the judge's order contradicts a federal court ruling last year, requiring enough water in the Missouri for barge navigation and the operation of power plants.
Environmentalists want the river restored to a more natural flow pattern, with higher water in the spring and lower levels during the summer to encourage fish spawning and bird nesting. The natural flow also would benefit the lake recreation industry in Montana and the Dakotas. But further downstream, farmers and residents are concerned that high water in the spring could lead to flooding, and the shipping industry claims low water in the summer would curtail barge navigation.