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The Missouri River originates in the Rocky Mountains of south-central Montana and flows approximately 2,341 miles through seven states, ending at its confluence with the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri. The plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides) was once the dominant floodplain vegetation in the Missouri River ecosystem (Corps 2006a). Natural cottonwood regeneration has largely ceased along the Missouri River following the construction of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System (System) and Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP). The reduction in the number of young cottonwoods to replace older cottonwoods concerns biologists because a variety of plant and wildlife species, including some protected species, are associated with cottonwoods.
Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) depend on the adjacent cottonwood forest for nesting, roosting, and wintering habitat along the Missouri River. Past and ongoing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) operations to serve Congressionally authorized project purposes, including flood control, have restricted overbank flooding causing the reduction of existing stands and new cottonwood establishment. The degradation of cottonwood forests will likely continue in the future and result in additional impacts to bald eagles. In response, the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in partnership with tribal nations, states and other agencies, are working to restore a portion of the Missouri River’s natural form and function in order to recover Missouri River species provided protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP) implements the USFWS 2003 Amended Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the Corps operation of the System, BSNP, and Kansas River Tributary Reservoirs (KR) Projects. Pursuant to Section 5018 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA 2007) the Corps, in consultation with the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC) is preparing a long-term and comprehensive Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP). The MRRIC includes representatives from Basin Tribes, states, and a diverse range of basin stakeholders. When complete, the MRERP will identify management actions to recover federally protected Missouri River species, mitigate losses of terrestrial and aquatic habitat, and prevent future declines of species. The Cottonwood Management Plan (CMP) is part of the MRRP. Ultimately, this plan may also inform the long-term MRERP.
The MRRP incorporates the requirements of the Missouri River BSNP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project on the Lower River (Mitigation Project) with the actions required by the 2003 Amended BiOp (Appendix A). The Mitigation Project was authorized by Section 601(a) of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 (Public Law 99-662). Title VI of the 1986 WRDA authorizes the Mitigation Project in accordance with the plans and subject to the conditions recommended in the Missouri River BSNP Final Feasibility Report and Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan (Corps 1981). The intent of the originally authorized Mitigation Project was to restore, preserve, and develop 18,200 acres of existing public lands and acquire and develop 29,900 acres of non-public land. A total of 48,100 acres of land in the four affected states, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, would be acquired, restored, preserved, and developed for the Mitigation Project. Allocations of the acreage by affected states are presented in the report entitled Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project, Reaffirmation Report (Corps 1990). In the WRDA of 1999 (Public Law 106-53) Congress authorized the acquisition and development of an additional 118,650 acres for the Mitigation Project, increasing the total acreage to 166,750 acres. The key recovery initiatives for the MRRP include habitat construction and restoration, hatchery support, flow modification, and an integrated science program that informs an overall adaptive management strategy. The CMP is part of the habitat creation recovery initiative of the MRRP.