U.S. Department of Defense



Date of this Version



Published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2003) 1-298


In 1989, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) initiated consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding operation of the Missouri River Main Stem Reservoir System (See Figure 1). This consultation was conducted under the provisions of section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which requires Federal agencies to consult with the Service when the agency’s proposed actions may affect the status of species listed as endangered or threatened. For the Missouri River operations by the Corps, the species covered in the 1989 consultation were the endangered Interior least tern (Sterna antillarum), threatened Northern Great Plains piping plover (Charadrius melodus) and the endangered bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocehpalus). Subsequently, the pallid sturgeon was listed as endangered in 1990.

Over the next eleven years the Service and the Corps conducted informal and formal section 7 consultations, resulting in a final Biological Opinion by the Service in 2000 covering operations of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers as well as the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project. The 2000 Biological Opinion found that the actions proposed by the Corps would result in jeopardy to the tern, pallid sturgeon and plover, but no jeopardy to the bald eagle. However, we recommend that the Corps not construct bank stabilization structures for the purpose of protecting cottonwood forests on private or public-owned lands. The Corps should continue to protect cottonwood forests along the Missouri River through the purchase, from willing sellers, of privately owned lands by fee title or conservation easement. The Service provided the Corps with a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) to their action that, if
implemented, would preclude jeopardizing these three species.

On November 3, 2003, the Corps requested reinitiation of formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA, and provided a Biological Assessment in support of the request. Reinitiation of formal consultation is appropriate where there is significant new information or circumstances change subsequent to the original Biological Opinion. In its reinitiation request, the Corps cited the designation of Critical Habitat (under the ESA) for the piping plover in 2002, and a new report on mortality of terns and plovers, as triggers to consultation. Earlier in 2003 the Service had advised the Corps that both of these were adequate triggers for reinitiation, and on November 10, 2003 the Service accepted the Biological Assessment and the start of formal consultation.

In addition to these two triggers for reinitiation, the Corps further stated its commitment to implement the RPA found in the 2000 Biological Opinion but proposed replacing certain elements of the RPA in its Missouri River management. The proposal includes a modified drought conservation plan, Gavins Point Dam summer releases, accelerated construction of shallow water habitat, hatchery facility improvements to increase pallid sturgeon production capabilities, accelerated brood stock collection, adaptive management (including research, monitoring and evaluation, and flow tests), but did not include the spring flow rise and low summer flow contained in the 2000 Biological Opinion RPA for Gavins Point Dam, nor did it include full implementation of flow enhancement out of Fort Peck Dam. The reinitiation of consultation included consideration of this proposal from the Corps.