Update on the Pallid Sturgeon
By: Paul Lepisto
Two Missouri River species, the pallid sturgeon and the piping plover, are listed under the Endangered Species Act. To continue operating the Missouri River System, the Corps of Engineers must avoid jeopardizing the existence of these species. With the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corps developed the Missouri River Recovery Plan. This focuses on the pallid sturgeon in the lower Missouri River.
The 2018 Missouri River Biological Opinion (BiOp) requires construction of twelve sites to see if that will help increase pallid reproduction. Pallids spawn in the 59-mile reach of the Missouri National Recreational River. After hatching young pallids can’t swim, they drift for 10-14 days. It’s theorized newly hatched pallids can’t get out of the turbulent navigation channel. The sites, known as Interception Rearing Complexes (IRCs), will be built below Kansas City. It’s thought IRCs will provide areas of shallow, slow water where the young pallids can fully develop.
The Corps constructed two IRCs in 2017, but due to legislative prohibitions, none have been built since. That delay only adds to the time required to fully evaluate the effectiveness of these sites, estimated to take 7-10 years. The Corps is planning two new IRCs, an Environmental Assessment (EA) will be released in January for public review and comment. Please review the EA and submit your comments next year. Following the comment period and contracting process, the Corps expects construction of the IRCs is in 2024. You can learn more about IRCs and the BiOp at: https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/utils/getfile/collection/p16021coll3/id/670.
Paul Lepisto works for the Izaak Walton League. He serves on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee and is a board member of the Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River.