April 15, 2004

Discussion will focus on plans for the Missouri River

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Free-flowing discussion about the past, present and future of the Missouri River will take place between 3:30 and 5 p.m. Thursday, April 22, in the University Museum Auditorium, located in the north end of Faner Hall on the Southern Illinois University campus.

Management of the 2,315-mile river, which runs through seven states, made national headlines last month after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new measures for dealing with the Missouri. The plan provoked a flood of protest from conservation groups, business interests and even Democratic South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, who said he was "disappointed" that the overhaul "blatantly ignores sound science."

The free SIUC colloquium will feature a presentation on adaptive management by Tony Prato, an agricultural economist who heads the University of Missouri's Missouri River Institute and is co-director of its Center for Agricultural, Resource and Environmental Systems.

Christopher L. Lant, chair of SIUC's Department of Geography and Environmental Management, and Roger Wiebusch, bridge administrator for the U.S. Coast Guard's Western Rivers Operation in St. Louis, will respond to Prato's presentation and offer comments of their own. Public discussion will then follow.

"Adaptive management encourages agencies to work collaboratively with a broad range of stakeholders to manage rivers to meet different needs," said Bruce P. Hooper, an associate professor in the geography department who organized the colloquium.

"The future is not just economic development, not just environmental management, not just amenities but all of these. We don't focus on one region but on the total river basin. The big picture is where we're going."

Putting large-scale, integrated solutions into practice never comes easy.

"It's complex because of the sheer breadth of the different interests across many different jurisdictions," Hooper said.

"In the Missouri River system, for example, management has been piecemeal, with every one making their own decisions and no one coordinating and planning."

Hooper stressed that the colloquium's participants were not decision-makers when it comes to setting out policy for the original "Big Muddy."

"But we are researchers who have had decades of experience dealing with water management," he noted. "This is an opportunity to bring together some of our local players to talk about fundamental issues that affect the health of a whole river system."

SIUC's geography department houses the Universities Council on Water Resources, a 90-member international consortium that focuses on education, research and service, and the International Water Resources Association, which promotes sustainable water management. It also maintains a series of databases called U-WIN (University Water Information Network) and publishes Water International, a peer-reviewed quarterly journal.

Serving others is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.