In what appeared to be a surprise to all the parties involved, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources changed their mind on issuing a water quality certification for modifications to the Jameson Island shallow water habitat project near Arrow Rock.
At the Nov. 7, 2012, Missouri Clean Water Commission meeting in Jefferson City, the commission unanimously voted to rescind a 2007 order preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from placing soil excavated for shallow water habitat chutes into the Missouri River. The vote directed DNR staff to move forward with drafting of the 401 water quality certification for this project.
However, during the Jan. 9 meeting of the MCWC, DNR director John Madras read from a letter his department sent to commission members and Corps officials on Jan. 8, 2013.
"At this time the department is withdrawing the draft water quality certification for the Jameson Island project," he read. "The department is not requiring any action by the commission at this time."
When questioned Madras said the disagreement over the project was one reason they were withdrawing the certification.
"There are a number of reasons and that is one of them," he said. He also said permits are normally issued by the department, while the commission has an appellate role in the process.
Citing the amount of time the MCWC had spent on the issue and the need to take a stand, commissioner Wallace Warren made a motion to issue the certificate despite the DNR's objections. Her motion would have allowed the Corps to put all the chute's excavated soil into the Missouri River. After lengthy discussion her motion was defeated by a 4-3 vote of the commission.
After the vote, Ken Midkiff representing the National Sierra Club blasted the commission's decision.
"You have shirked your authority," he said, adding that "stupidity reins here."
Zach White representing the Corps said they were "surprised" by the DNR's recommendation.
"In a perfect world I was hoping to receive a permit," he said, adding they are looking at other avenues to continue the project. "Since we received ... the letter we have looked at what alternatives we have to get the project moving."
Tom Waters, president of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association said they want to see the project go forward to alleviate problems to the Howard County Levee directly across from the current outlet.
However agriculture proponents have recommended the Corps use their third proposed option which takes the excavated soil and places it on the the 1,600 acre site. In that scenario, none of the soil is placed into the Missouri River.
"I feel like the application has been denied and that sent the Corps back to the drawing board," he said. "Hopefully the Corps will come back with something more reasonable, that will pass the clean water standards, that the clean water commission can agree to, and the stakeholders that are involved can be happy with and we can move the thing forward."