Division of Conservation Planning
Midwest Region

Comprehensive Conservation Plan Under Way!

Work on a comprehensive conservation plan for Big Muddy NWR began in 2007 with a series of public listening meetings. See the CCP planning site for information.

Big Muddy NWR Expansion Environmental Impact Statement Summary

Abstract
Purpose of and Need for Action
Alternatives
Affected Environment
Environmental Consequences
Literature Cited

Abstract:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to expand the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge from the currently approved 16,628 acres to a total of 60,000 acres. Expansion would be accomplished by acquiring from willing sellers an additional 43,372 acres along the Missouri River floodplain from Kansas City to St. Louis, Missouri, and the lower 10 miles of major tributaries (Alternative B). Proposed additions could be located in any of the twenty counties that lie along this stretch of the Missouri River. Selection criteria based on values related to proposed management goals will be used to determine specific sites for acquisition. Management goals of the Big Muddy project are to restore acquired acreage to a natural floodplain condition, including bottomland forests, improve and restore wetland values, improve fishery and wildlife resources, and provide additional public use areas for fish and wildlife-dependent recreation. The No Action Alternative (A), the Service’s preferred Alternative (B), and three alternatives which were considered but rejected (C, D, and E), are discussed.

RESPONSIBLE AGENCY:
Department of the Interior
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service RESPONSIBLE OFFICIAL:
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region
Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building
One Federal Drive
Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Judy McClendon, EIS Project Manager
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
24385 State Highway 51
Puxico, Missouri 69360
573-222-6001 or 800-686-8339 toll-free
TTY users may reach us through the Missouri State Relay Service at 1-800-735-2966.

Refuge Manager
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
4200 New Haven Road
Columbia, Missouri 65201-9634
573-876-1826 or 800-611-1826 toll-free

Purpose of and Need for Action

Introduction

Missouri River Refuge Concepts

Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Proposed Action

Purpose of Action

Need for Action

Decisions Needed

Scoping

Issues and Concerns Identified During Scoping

Introduction

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the primary Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing the Nation’s fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. An integral component of the Service is the National Wildlife Refuge System, whose mission is to preserve a national network of lands and waters for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, and plant resources of the United States for the benefit of present and future generations. Authority for funding and acquiring lands for the refuge system is provided by laws which have been passed by Congress in accordance with provisions of the United States Constitution.

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Missouri River Refuge Concepts

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to expand Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (Big Muddy Refuge) from its currently approved 16,628 acres to 60,000 acres. The expansion would be accomplished by acquiring an additional 43,372 acres via fee title purchase or less-than-fee title purchases via donation, lease, easement, or agreement from willing sellers and donors.

The idea to create a national wildlife refuge on the Lower Missouri River has been discussed within the Service for many years, at least as early as the 1970's (Memory recall of the authors). Formal considerations were begun with a memorandum dated March 27, 1989, from the Regional Directors of Regions 3 and 6 to the Service Director, in which they advised that, "Fish and wildlife resources (on the Lower Missouri River) have been seriously reduced by past impacts of agriculture, flood control, and navigation. The remaining habitat deserves an increased level of protection and rehabilitation." (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1989.)

Concept planning continued into the early 1990's but specific action to initiate a formal proposal was delayed because of budget constraints and a lack of urgency to tackle a long-standing issue. The Great Flood of 1993 provided the impetus to revive the concept. Flood damages prompted many bottomland farmers to consider selling their land so they could either retire from farming or relocate their operations. Congress enacted Public Law 103-75, an Act Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for the Relief From Major, Widespread Flooding in the Midwest of 1993, dated August 12, 1993. Subsequently, Congress enacted Public Law 103-211, dated February 12, 1994, authorizing expenditure of the funds provided by Public Law 103-75 for land acquisition from willing sellers. These acts provided some funding to the Service for "buy-outs" of lands being offered for sale by Missouri River bottomland landowners. By 1996 many landowners and drainage districts were actively repairing damages and reclaiming flood devastated lands, even after a near repeat of the 1993 flood in 1995. By early 1997 landowner interests in "selling out" had begun to wane. By the time the draft of this document was available for public review in October 1997, some landowner and private property rights activists had labeled this project a "government land grab."

The fact remains that the Service proposed the need for a project to restore and protect natural fish and wildlife habitats in the Missouri River floodplain long before the 1993 flood and reiterates that need in this final version of its proposal.

A formal concept of the Refuge developed rapidly, required planning documents were prepared and funding became available in early 1994. Because the 1993 flood was more intense and more damaging below Kansas City, concept planning focused on the Kansas City to St. Louis, Missouri, reach of the river.

Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Missouri, was established on September 9, 1994, ". . . for the development, advancement, management, conservation, and protection of fish and wildlife resources . . . " [16 U.S.C. ¤ 742f(a)(4)]. The first parcel of land was purchased later that month. There are now seven units approved for acquisition totaling 16,628 acres.

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Proposed Action

The proposed expansion would consist of multiple sites along the Missouri River (Figure S1) and the lower reaches of some of its tributaries between Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri. These additions could be located in any of the twenty counties that lie along the Missouri River from River Mile 367.5, near Kansas City, Missouri, to River Mile 0, at St. Louis, Missouri.

Selection criteria based on values related to proposed management goals would be used to determine specific sites for acquisition.Map shows proposed refuge expansion

Purpose of Action

Management goals of the Refuge are to restore portions of the acquired areas to a natural floodplain condition, including bottomland forests, improve and restore wetland values, improve fishery and wildlife resources, and to provide additional public area for fish and wildlife-dependent recreation.

Eventually the Refuge could include up to 60,000 acres of floodplain and associated land. A refuge of this size would reflect the Service's ecosystem approach to management and would help to attain goals for threatened and endangered species recovery, neotropical migrant bird and interjurisdictional fish conservation, biological diversity, and fish and wildlife-dependent public recreation. The proposal also supports and complements the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) 10-year fisheries strategic plan for the Missouri River and the United States Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps) Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1986.

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Need for Action



Decisions Needed

Preparation of this Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) involves a study process required to enable the Service to respond to a need for floodplain and habitat restoration in the Lower Missouri River. The cumulative effects of acquisition of the Refuge are addressed in the EIS for the entire Refuge in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Regional Director, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, will choose an alternative to implement based on documented input from the public and results of his staff’s studies of the impacts of the proposed action. If he chooses the No Action Alternative (A), the Refuge will not be expanded beyond the 16,628 acres already authorized. If he chooses the Preferred Alternative (B), the Refuge would be expanded to 60,000 acres. He will formally declare his decision by signing a Record of Decision. Acquisition of proposed additions may begin 30 days following the publication of the Notice of Availability of the Final EIS in the Federal Register and as funding is available.

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Scoping

The Service coordinated its study closely, and met frequently, with the MDC, United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Corps. The thrust of numerous meetings was to consider the respective interests and capabilities of each agency to assume specific portions of a common goal to preserve approximately 100,000 acres of Missouri River floodplain.

The Service held five open houses at various locations in January 1996. Attendance at the five open houses averaged 35 people per meeting. The Service received more than 300 comments. (Copies of the comments are available upon request.)

News releases were provided to the media announcing the open houses and a mailing list was compiled. The Service has kept the public informed about the proposed action with a newsletter series, Big Muddy Update, published on an intermittent basis. The mailing list for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement totaled more than 1,000 names of elected officials, interested individuals and groups, landowners, government agencies, drainage and levee district officials, and conservation organizations.

Governing officials in 17 of the 20 counties were given oral presentations by Service personnel in the months of November and December 1995, and January 1996; written information was sent to three counties not able to accommodate the personal visit schedule. Other presentations and interviews were given to the newspaper, radio, and television media, conservation groups, drainage districts, sportsman’s clubs, and town meetings. An information video was produced and distributed to interested people. Congressional District offices in the state were briefed in the fall of 1996 and their offices in Washington, D.C. and state offices in November of 1997.

Five open house meetings were held along the river in November of 1997 to receive comments on the Draft EIS and explain the proposal. Meetings were held in Concordia on November 13; Kansas City on November 14; St. Charles on November 17; Columbia on November 18; and Washington on November 19. Approximately 129 people participated and attended the meetings. More than 500 letters and cards were received and are reprinted in Appendix 7. A 90-day comment period began in early November and closed February 17, 1998. Interest in the project has increased and the mailing list now contains almost 1,600 names.

Issues and Concerns Identified During Scoping

Concerns were expressed relative to river hydrology, landowner rights, levee and drainage district operations, and proposed activities on the Refuge. Others expressed the desirability of a more natural floodplain ecology that offered enhanced outdoor recreation and education opportunities. Some comments focused on restoration and preservation of natural ecosystems for their heritage values.

Many of the comments encouraged expansion while others cited conflict issues that must be resolved in order for the Refuge to be perceived as a responsible and cooperative neighbor in the community.

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Alternatives

Rationale For Alternative Designs

Description of Alternatives

Comparison of Alternatives

Rationale For Alternative Designs

All alternatives considered were evaluated in relationship to their ability to provide permanent protection and restoration of fish and wildlife, habitat, and hydrologic function necessary to conserve and protect Service resource responsibilities applicable to the Missouri River.

Description of Alternatives

Two alternatives (A and B) are described and discussed. The alternatives were evaluated in relation to their ability to satisfy the stated Refuge objectives. Alternative B is the Service’s preferred alternative and describes how the Big Muddy Refuge could be expanded from the currently authorized seven areas totaling 16,628 acres to a total of 60,000 acres.

Alternative A. No Action. The Big Muddy Refuge would not be expanded beyond the currently authorized seven areas totaling 16,628 acres.

The no action alternative means that the Refuge would be limited to the seven areas currently approved for acquisition. These areas are located from just east of Kansas City (River Mile 338) to slightly down river from Jefferson City (River Mile 118). Although the Service has established its presence on the river with 16,628 acres currently approved for acquisition, this amounts to only 2 percent of the floodplain in this reach and is insufficient to protect the health of the Missouri River ecosystem.

Alternative B. (Preferred Alternative). Expand the Big Muddy Refuge to 60,000 acres by acquisition of 43,372 acres dispersed along the Missouri River corridor from its confluence with the Kansas River near Kansas City (River Mile 367) to its confluence with the Mississippi River near St. Louis (River Mile 0).

This alternative would allow the continued acquisition of interest in lands to establish permanent protection and restoration of 60,000 acres of floodplain habitat and riverine functions such as periodic overbank inundation, scour, and deposition on sites dispersed along the river corridor. Restoration of habitat would be sufficient to protect and restore Federally-listed threatened, endangered, and candidate species and meet other Service resource responsibilities within the project area. Lands acquired for the Refuge will provide public areas for compatible fish and wildlife dependent recreation and opportunities to increase public understanding and appreciation of Missouri River issues and resources.

Alternative B would increase the Service’s presence to 8 percent of the Kansas City to St. Louis reach of the Missouri River floodplain. These lands would complement other agencies’ restoration and protection programs.

The MDC has an acquisition goal of 20,000 acres to be purchased along the Missouri River and the Corps plans to acquire 14,600 acres in Missouri as part of the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project. MDC and the Corps’ goals for acquisition include sites upstream, beyond the reach of the study area of the proposed Refuge project. The NRCS has scattered easements under their Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) or Emergency Wetland Reserve Program (EWRP) which may or may not coincide with Service acquisition sites. The acquisition plans of other agencies and the Service’s Alternative B are complementary.

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Comparison of Alternatives

Three other alternatives were considered but were rejected because they did not afford full realization of the stated objectives of the project. All alternatives considered would allow some protection of varying amounts of habitat. The combined alternatives include a full range of acquiring interests in lands on an additional 43,372 acres from all fee title acquisition to all easement/agreement arrangements. The Service prefers an optimal mix of these two extremes. Both Alternatives A and B allow the Service to acquire interests in lands via processes that best suit the seller and the buyer, whether the process is fee title, easement, cooperative/partnership agreements, or some combination of these.

The Service prefers Alternative B to Alternative A because it allows the needed expansion to provide significant amounts of long-term riverine habitat restoration and protection.

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Affected Environment

Introduction

Hydrology

Geology and Soils

Mineral and Energy Resources

Land Use

Land Ownership

Levees

Natural Resources

Public Use and Access

Socio-economic Conditions

Cultural Resources

Introduction

The watershed which supports the Missouri River isapproximately 530,000 square miles (entire Missouri River Basin) lying within ten states. The Big Muddy Refuge study area comprises the environment that might be affected by the proposed action.

Hydrology

Floodplain: Historically, the Missouri River was subject to large seasonal variations in flows. These dynamic conditions resulted in a diversity of riverine and floodplain habitat, including sloughs, chutes, oxbow lakes, sandbars, deep pools, marshes, seasonally-flooded bottomland forests, and wet prairies. Floodplain forest was reduced from 76 percent of floodplain vegetation early in the 19th century to 13 percent by 1972, a loss of 63 percent. During this same period, croplands increased from 18 to 83 percent of the floodplain, an increase of 65 percent.

Habitats supported at least 160 species of resident and migrant wildlife and 156 species of native fish in the mainstem river and its tributaries. The river was and continues to be an important migration route for migratory birds.

The river floodplain varies in width from 2 - 10 miles. Low river benches, terraces, and the remains of former river channels are common. Record flooding in 1993 and 1995 left behind the effects of dramatic scouring and extensive sand deposits. The floodplain has extensive water control development designed to protect agricultural fields and communities.

The Lower Missouri River: The Missouri River is one of the longest rivers in the United States (2,355 miles) and one of the Nation's most developed. The river’s natural hydrology below Sioux City, Iowa, has been altered by intense regulation of water releases at mainstem tributaries and dams. By the time river water reaches the study area it has been regulated for navigation, power generation, and flood control.

Geology and Soils

The Service’s study area is generally defined as an alluvial floodplain with intermittent limestone or sandstone bluffs. Loess deposits, a wind blown silty material, ranging from 10 feet to more than 90 feet deep, overlay the limestone bedrock forming hills and bluffs adjacent to the floodplain.

Generally, floodplain alluvial soils in the study area are soil associations containing the Haynie and Waldron Soil Series. These soils are moderately well drained, to well drained loamy soils and are well suited to cultivated crops, pasture, trees, and wildlife habitat. They are used mostly for cultivated crops.

Usually the presence of the Waldron Series is an indicator of prime farmland when drained and protected.

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Mineral and Energy Resources

There is a history in the study area of extraction of energy resources such as coal and petroleum but most of that activity has ceased due to the lack of economic production.

Other mineral resources present in the study area are mostly limited to the mining of adjacent bluffs for limestone and sandstone materials used for construction such as rock, gravel, and sand. Some limestone is mined for agricultural uses. There is some mining of clays and shale for brick production. Sand and gravel are mined or dredged from the floodplain and the river regularly.

Land Use

In the floodplain, the dominant land use is agriculture with wetlands and water being the next most dominant categories. Forest land ranks fifth in land use in the floodplain. County-wide, forest land follows agriculture as the dominant use. Urban and built-up land ranks third in total county acres. Rangeland and barren land are least dominant in both the floodplain acreage totals and the entire county totals. (Figure S2). Figure shows landcover types in the study area

Land Ownership

Most of the land the Service would be interested in purchasing for potential additions is privately owned. A small amount of land may be owned by various government entities. Some lands may have improvements such as levee and drainage systems which may be owned by chartered districts.

Some of the tracts will likely have WRP or EWRP easements on them which are owned by NRCS. Tracts with such easements could be acquired by the Service. The residual privately owned rights on such tracts could be purchased in fee title by the Service.

Levees

Levee and drainage districts, both private and chartered, are prevalent throughout the study area and are a primary characteristic of the floodplain. Their purpose is to provide and maintain services and facilities that will help control excessive water levels. The services and facilities are paid for by the beneficiaries through annual assessments.

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Natural Resources

Forest

Special Status Species

Waterfowl

Game Species

Fishery & Aquatic Resources

Forest: From 1826 to 1972 the Missouri River floodplain forest coverage between Kansas City and St. Louis decreased by approximately 63 percent. There is now about 5,800 acres of forest in the study area.

Special Status Species: Endangered species of specific concern to the Service that might occur within the project area are: plants - decurrent false aster; birds - bald eagle, piping plover, least tern, and peregrine falcon; mammals - gray bat and Indiana bat; and fish - pallid sturgeon

Another special concern group is neotropical birds. More than 200 species of neotropical migrant landbirds (mostly songbirds) spend most of their life in the tropic zones of North and South America. Each spring about 110 of these species migrate to breed and reproduce in the timberlands of Midwest regions of North America. Fragmentation of habitats by roads, urban and commercial developments, intensive farming, deforestation, and other factors has adversely affected many neotropical migrants.

Many native Missouri River fish populations have declined over the past few decades as riverine aquatic habitat diversity and abundance have decreased. The pallid sturgeon is now Federally-listed as endangered. The sicklefin chub and sturgeon chub are candidate species which have been petitioned for Federally-endangered listing. Six additional fish species: blue sucker, paddlefish, lake sturgeon, western silvery minnow, plains minnow, and flathead chub are species of special concern to the Service.

Waterfowl: Waterfowl have historically used the Missouri River and its floodplain for resting, feeding, and nesting. Their concentration numbers and locations vary from year-to-year due to shifts in climate and habitat conditions. Waterfowl numbers are greatest during the Spring and Fall migration seasons.

Game Species: The floodplain and associated riparian zones of the study reach of the Missouri River support a wide variety of game including turkey and white-tailed deer, the only big game species present.

The combination of bottomland forests and agriculture fields provides excellent habitat for several game mammals including grey and fox squirrels, cottontail rabbit, red and grey fox, and coyote. White-tailed deer also utilize both the forests and the open fields. Six of the twenty counties in the study area (Callaway, Boone, Chariton, Carroll, Osage, and Howard) are ranked in the top 25 deer harvest counties of Missouri.

Fishery & Aquatic Resources: Surveys in 1994 and 1996 resulted in a list of 83 fish species in the Lower Missouri River. Game fish such as several species of catfish; sunfish, including bluegill and crappie; minnows, including carp; suckers, including buffalo; and perch including sauger. No native species have been extirpated but several continue to follow declining trends in abundance and distribution. These trends are thought to be related to changes in habitat abundance and availability, hydrology and water quality.

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Public Use and Access

Recreational opportunities in the study area are limited by a lack of public lands and excess facilities such as roads, access across private lands, parking areas and boat launching ramps. There are 18 State owned areas, 8 Federally-owned areas, and 2 privately owned excess areas now existing on 367 river miles of the study area.

Socio-economic Conditions

The floodplain study area has been divided into three regions for the purposes of this discussion. The Western and Eastern regions are the two major urban areas with the Central Region being predominantly rural. Farm Unit Profile: In terms of both acres and dollar value of commodities sold, Missouri farms continue to grow. The average Missouri farm, at 291 acres, has nearly doubled in acreage since 1950. The average market value of agricultural products sold per farm has increased over eight- fold in the last 38 years, attributable both to inflation and increased production per farm. In 1992, Missouri farms sold an average of $43,873 in farm commodities.

Most Missouri farms (64.7 percent) are operated by persons who own all the land they farm. Only about eight percent are tenants who own no land.

Tax Revenues: Real property tax rates on farmlands without improvements on the existing seven units of the Refuge are around $2.00 per acre. Taxes for the Jackass Bend unit average more than $5.00 per acre and only $1.30 per acre for the Jameson/Lisbon units. The other four units averaged $1.73 in taxes per acre. Taxes on the proposed additional 43,372 acres are expected to have similar tax rates.

Cultural Resources

A review of the National Register of Historic Places showed that, as of August 1, 1996, the 20 counties bordering the Missouri River contained 736 properties listed on the National Register. The majority of these properties are buildings in towns and cities. But a number of the listed properties are prehistoric archeological sites and several of the properties are located in rural areas. The kinds of historic properties that could be found on units of the Refuge include: farmsteads and homesteads, bridges, mills, a battlefield, and segments of the National Historic Trails System.

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Environmental Consequences

Introduction

Impacts on Missouri River Hydrology

Impacts On Floodplain Use

Impacts on Levee and Drainage Districts

Impacts on Natural Resources

Impacts on Public Use and Access

Impacts on Socio-economics

Impacts on Cultural Resources

Consumption of Energy and Other Depletable Resources

Unavoidable Adverse Effects

Relationship Between Local Short-term Uses/Long-term Productivity

Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitments of Resources

Cumulative Effects

Introduction

Only the impacts of the Alternative A and Alterative B are discussed and compared. Both alternatives would provide preservation and restoration of natural river floodplain ecosystems.

This section is organized by impacts with discussions of the consequences of each alternative relative to each impact. Generally, the impacts discussed are common to both alternatives varying only in magnitude, depending on the amount of land actually acquired.

Impacts on Missouri River Hydrology

General Hydrology

Flooding and Draining On Private Lands

Navigation System Management

General Hydrology: With Alternative A, Service acquired floodplain lands would be allowed to hydrologically reconnect to the river. More frequent flooding would occur on acquired lands. Over time, one would expect the higher sedimentation rates to eventually lead to slightly higher land elevations on some portions of the acquired tracts and a change in floodplain configuration.

Tracts sought under Alternative B will contain important remnant floodplain habitats or be otherwise suitable for restoration of habitat diversity and reconnection of the floodplain to the river. Overall hydrologic effects will be similar to Alternative A, but will cover a larger area. If fully acquired, Refuge lands would make approximately 8 percent of the floodplain within the project area available for flood water storage and flow conveyance.

Flooding and Draining On Private Lands: Concerns have been expressed that the Service may create impoundments that will back water onto private lands or, the Service may breach a levee resulting in extraordinary pressure on private levees downstream. The rights and privileges of the Service as a land owner are no greater or no less than private land owners. The Service has no authority to manage, develop, or alter its land in such a way as to adversely impact private land.

Navigation System Management: The objectives of Big Muddy Refuge would not interfere with navigation system management. It is acknowledged that current navigation management could limit the success of some habitat restoration efforts on individual tracts. Refuge objectives would be enhanced if navigation flows were managed to more resemble the high and low natural season flows.

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Impacts On Floodplain Use

Prime Farmland

Floodplain Preservation/Restoration

Prime Farmland: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition of prime farmland would exclude most of the Missouri River floodplain lands if they were not drained or protected from flooding. Prior to the 1993 flood the majority of the floodplain lands had been drained and/or protected with levees.

In Alternative A, approximately 20 percent (3,328 acres) of the 16,628 acres approved for purchase may be prime farmland because the levees have been rebuilt or repaired. The remaining 80 percent (13,300 acres) either was never protected by levees or the damaged levees will not be repaired, therefore is not prime farmland, or was never cropland at all.

Under Alternative B, the Service favors acquiring non-agricultural and marginally productive lands, which are not likely to be classed as prime farmland. Some purchase agreements may include prime farmland as a portion of a tract or a complete ownership, but the Service does not intend to target such tracts.

Since a stated purpose of the Refuge is to reconnect the floodplain with the river, any prime farmland that the Service might acquire will likely be converted so as to lose its prime farmland classification.

Floodplain Preservation/Restoration: Dominant use of floodplain lands that might be acquired under this proposal would shift from cropland to natural riverine habitats. The economic impacts resulting from this shift are discussed under the socio-economics section.

Both alternatives would provide protection, restoration, and management of riverine habitats within the study area. However, Alternative B would produce greater benefits than Alternative A due to its larger acreage and number of management units.

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Impacts on Levee and Drainage Districts

Land Acquisition Within Districts

Coordination with Levee/Drainage Districts

Land Acquisition Within Districts: Implementation of either Alternative A or B is not expected to adversely impact levee/drainage districts.

One acquisition preference of the Service under Alternative A is to purchase all the lands within a levee or drainage district that has dissolved or is considering such action. Levee/drainage districts vary in number of land owners. Some districts may have as few as three or four owners as was the case on a portion of the existing Diana Bend Unit.

Under Alternative B the Service would have the same acquisition preference. Each candidate acquisition site would be carefully examined to determine probable impacts of its intended use on adjacent lands. Should the pre-acquisition study reveal that adverse impacts on adjacent lands would be impossible to avoid, the Service would likely delay altering such sites until all the affected land is purchased.

Coordination with Levee/Drainage Districts: Potentially all lands within a levee district may not be for sale; sometimes only a portion, or perhaps a single tract within a district is for sale. If the Service favors acquisition of such tracts, it would seek to negotiate with the taxing entity to determine appropriate compensation for loss of annual revenue to the district. The Service would prefer a one-time, up-front payment for assessments foregone (revenue anticipated to be received by the district).

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Impacts on Natural Resources

Mineral and Energy Resources

Forest Land

Special Status Species

Wildlife & Fishery Resources

Mineral and Energy Resources: Alternative A would not adversely impact energy resources because there is no history of them being present on the approved acquisition sites. Energy resources are not likely to be present in the areas selected for acquisition under Alternative B because such activity is very low and scattered; most of the past energy resource extraction efforts have been abandoned.

Construction materials such as stone, sand, and gravel are present in the bluffs, floodplain, and within the channel of the river. Mining and dredging operations are well established and generally obvious within the study reach of this project. The mining of these materials and Refuge objectives are not expected to be in conflict, however transporting the materials over land could require special consideration by the Service. The Service would try to avoid acquiring tracts that have existing materials hauling routes over private land; the Service would have no authority to interfere with such routes on public roads. Mining and trespass easements on Service lands are occasionally authorized via special use permits but such is not a common practice.

There is a history of extraction of coal, petroleum, natural gas, and metallic minerals in several counties within the project area. No impacts on these resources are anticipated because the mining operations either have been abandoned or are not located in the floodplain. Pre-acquisition contaminant surveys will reveal if any residual conditions pose potential problems for Refuge operations.

Forest Land: Forest management techniques may be used for native woodland restoration and maintenance. These techniques may include commercial cutting, salvage cutting, planting, burning, and seeding. Management thrusts would likely be to enlarge and connect the existing woodlands which tend to be in small clusters.

Special Status Species: Neither alternative will have any adverse impact on Federally-listed endangered species. Rather it is believed that any amount of land brought under the control of the Service will enhance biologists’ efforts to monitor the welfare of these species and implement whatever recovery or protection efforts are deemed necessary.

Wildlife & Fishery Resources: Under both alternatives, fishery resource benefits are expected to be directly proportional to the amount and diversity of aquatic habitat restored. Post acquisition habitat restoration and management would benefit native fishes as well as resident and migratory wildlife populations.

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Impacts on Public Use and Access

Public Access

Hunting, Fishing and Non-consumptive Opportunities

Trespass and Law Enforcement

Public Access: Compared with pre-refuge conditions, additional public access to the floodplain and river would exist under both alternatives. Public access would be proportional to the amount of land that the Service owns. Designated portions of Refuge land would be open to the public under both alternatives.

Hunting, Fishing and Non-consumptive Opportunities: Public recreational use opportunities would expand under both alternatives.

Consumptive and non-consumptive activities will increase as the floodplain develops increased habitat diversity and extent.

Trespass and Law Enforcement: Potential trespass by Refuge visitors onto adjacent private lands is a concern to some landowners. Under both alternatives, impacts to private, neighboring landowners caused by Refuge visitor use are expected to be minimal based on experience at other Federal wildlife areas managed by the Service.

Impacts on Socio-economics

Procedures

Refuge Benefits: Cost Factors

Acquisition Selection Criteria

Protection of Historic and Archaeological Sites

Procedures: The economic impacts of implementing Alternative A are based on data from the seven units approved for acquisition. Known information from these units is used to extrapolate similar data for evaluating the benefits and costs for implementing Alternative B. Since the location and character of acquisition sites for Alternative B are unknown, the extrapolated data are used to develop a series of assessment cases to aid in selecting acquisition sites that will most likely meet the objectives of the project with the lowest possible economic impact.

Refuge Benefits:Cost Factors

Overview: The Service contracted with Dr. Tony Prato of DaySpring Environmental Associates for an economic analysis of the proposed alternatives. The analysis employed the computer model program known as IMPLAN (IMpact analysis for PLANning) which evaluated differences between Alternative A and B for economic output, household income, and employment. This analysis compares agricultural production gains vs. losses, or, benefits vs. costs, to define the economic impacts of converting private lands to public lands.

Refuge Revenue Sharing Payments: Even though county tax revenues would decrease under both Alternative A and B due to Service ownership, lands acquired would be eligible for Refuge Revenue Sharing Act payments to the counties which are expected to generally equal or exceed taxes.

Expected Benefits and Costs: Categories for evaluating annual state economic benefits for Alternatives A and B were recreation, revenue sharing payments, construction and operation, and employment. Categories for evaluating annual state economic costs were losses in agricultural production, expressed as total economic output, household income and number of jobs; property taxes; and employment.

The findings indicate that expected agricultural economic losses are greatest when cropland has flood protection and is not enrolled in a wetland easement program, moderate when there is no flood protection and none of the cropland is enrolled in a wetland easement program, and least when there is no flood protection and cropland is enrolled in an easement program. Evaluated annual costs exceed evaluated annual benefits by $150,600 for Alternative A. Evaluated annual benefits exceed evaluated annual cost by $1,126,307 for Alternative B. For the most part, the net benefits (benefits minus costs) of Alternative B are higher when cropland purchased by the Service is not protected by levees and is enrolled in a wetland easement program.

Other benefits discussed include land acquisition payments, and avoidance of costs for levee repairs and costs for agriculture support programs.

Land acquisition costs for the additional 43,372 acres are estimated at $48 million; if spread evenly over a 20-year acquisition period, this expenditure would provide an annual economic benefit of $2.4 million.

Assuming management of refuge lands will not require flood protection, it is estimated that avoided levee repair costs after a major flood would save approximately $4.5 million per event. Annual levee repair and maintenance costs are estimated to be about one dollar per acre protected; thus 43,372 acres of refuge land could save up to $43,372 per year.

Costs avoided for agriculture support programs have not been quantified, but savings would be expected due to avoided payments associated with the Agricultural Market Transition Program (price support) and the Emergency Crop Disaster Assistance (direct payments and crop insurance). It is recognized the price support programs are scheduled to end in 2002.

Acquisition Selection Criteria: In selecting potential acquisition sites, the following criteria will be used to screen the sites initially:

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Impacts on Cultural Resources

Protection of Historic and Archaeological Sites

Protection of Historic and Archaeological Sites: The primary difference between Alternatives A and B and their impacts on historic and archeological sites is the amount of acreage involved. Archeological sites are reported in every county in which acquisition is anticipated.

Acquisition of lands under both alternatives provides high potential the Refuge will also acquire a variety of prehistoric and historic sites and structures.

The Missouri Historic Preservation Officer will be requested to inform the Service of sites reported to be on lands being acquired for the Refuge. Descriptions of undertakings on the Refuge will be provided by the Refuge Manager to the Service’s Historic Preservation Officer who will consult with his counterpart at the State level. No undertakings will proceed until the National Historic Preservation Act is complied with.

Consumption of Energy and Other Depletable Resources

Development and management of the Refuge is not expected to include energy consuming facilities such as long running pumps for water management. The proposed operations are expected to consume less energy than if the land were being farmed.

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Unavoidable Adverse Effects

Potential uses of the proposed Refuge could cause some unavoidable impacts that could be regarded as adverse. For example, greater public use would likely occur, bringing heavier vehicular traffic, noise, wildlife disturbance and littering.

Construction activities for development of access roads, parking lots, fishing areas and other management needs could result in some temporary, but unavoidable siltation, erosion, compaction of soils and destruction of vegetation. The Service would prepare separate NEPA compliance documents as necessary to address these activities and would include mitigative measures in the construction plans as necessary.

Relationship Between Local Short-term Uses/Long-term Productivity

Short-term activity involved with the acquisition of lands by the Service would result in long-term preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of former wetlands and bottomland forests.

Conversion of croplands to natural riverine habitat could decrease the agricultural productivity of the study area during Service ownership or during the time of cooperative agreements. However, the conversion of cropland would be reversible; and the long-term productivity of the soil would be enhanced if the land were idled from farming for a time.

Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitments of Resources

No irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources would occur as a result of the proposed acquisition.

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Cumulative Effects

The major benefit of either alternative is the restoration of the floodplain to a more natural riverine environment. Of course this change will not happen immediately following acquisition; it will take several years. Each year, and each change of seasons, will result in environmental changes as former agricultural lands are retired and allowed to succeed through progressive stages toward the desired ecological goal of riverine conditions. The major cost, or loss, associated with both alternatives is the loss of agricultural production; the loss of the economic value of crops not raised when acquired croplands are retired and converted to refuge uses. Willing sellers will be appropriately compensated for land sales, but their employees, suppliers and brokers will likely experience a loss of income with each tract purchased. The income loss will be gradual because acquisition is expected to be spread over an estimated 20-year period, more or less. In the meantime, new economic opportunity is expected to develop as refuge operations increase, creating new jobs, needs for supplies and public use opportunities. While economic shifts could be obvious locally, regional and state-wide economic activity will not likely be significant.

No substantive adverse environmental cumulative impacts are anticipated under either alternative.

Literature Cited

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1980. Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report, Missouri River Stabilization and Navigation Project. USFWS, Kansas City, MO. 85p. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, March 27, 1989. Memorandum to Director from Regional Directors, Region 3 and 6.

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Last updated: January 13, 2011
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