Missouri River dredging permits renewed

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District has evaluated applications to renew commercial dredging permits for the Missouri River.

USACE has renewed permits for six commercial dredging companies currently authorized to extract sand and gravel from the Missouri River.

Their existing permits, which expire April 30, 2021, authorized the extraction up to approximately 5.99 million tons per year. The renewed permits authorize extraction up to approximately 5.75 million tons per year.

USACE evaluates the potential effects of dredging on the Missouri riverbed in five distinct segments – the St. Joseph, Kansas City, Waverly, Jefferson City and St. Charles segments – and adjusts dredging locations and quantities to maintain stable bed elevations.

After the most recent assessment, Kansas City District closed approximately 154 miles of the Missouri River to dredging and limited the quantity at other locations. Areas with stable riverbed elevations remain largely unchanged from previous permits.

The commercial dredgers completed a new survey of the riverbed in 2019 as required by the permits. This survey indicated pronounced bed degradation upstream in the St. Joseph and Kansas City segments and less pronounced degradation downstream in the Waverly, Jefferson City, and St. Charles segments.

USACE determined reduction in dredging locations and quantities are necessary to protect the public interest, including impacts to navigation, bank stabilization and levees.

The District closed larger dredging locations in the upstream segments due to the more severe degradation. The St. Joseph segment has been closed except for approximately 20 miles, with the quantity limit unchanged. The Kansas City segment has been closed except for 2.4 miles with the quantity limit reduced from 540,000 to 300,000 tons per year.

The District has not reduced quantity limits in the remaining segments but has closed locations ranging from 7.5 to 14 miles each. Additionally, the District has created eight new 5-mile reaches with a quantity limit of 300,000 tons.

This targeted approach balances the need for the river bed to recover in the most significantly degraded locations, while minimizing industry disruption by opening dredging in locations that will be impacted less.

The permits, if accepted by the dredging companies, will be valid until December 31, 2025. The dredging companies have until April 30, 2021 to appeal the permit decision if they disagree with the terms and conditions.

The Missouri River has been commercially dredged for at least 100 years to supply sand and gravel for concrete and asphalt used in construction and road building. Demand grew as communities along the Missouri River grew and dredging increased from 250,000 tons per year in 1935 to a peak of nearly 9 million tons in 2002.

Photo: USACE