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Scientific team wrapping up Missouri River opinion

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – A team of biologists is hoping to have its report on the Missouri River ready for the US Army Corps of Engineers next week.

The consultation team is working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Its mission is to look at the endangered species in the Missouri -- the least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon -- and how the operation of the river affects them. The team has been meeting for the last month, first in Minneapolis, then in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mike Olson is the Fish and Wildlife Service's Missouri River Coordinator. He's a member of the team - and he says most team members have not worked in the Missouri Basin. But he says the team is very knowledgeable about endangered species.

"They're the consummate professionals," said Olson. "They understand large river ecology, the endangered species act, and they're trying to offer to this issue a fresh perspective."

Olson says the team is writing a "biological opinion" on how the river's management will affect the three endangered species. And he says that will be used as the Corps writes its new master manual for the Missouri.

"Well, that's the hope, is that the biological opinion will be used by the Corps as they put out the final master manual. Ultimately, I think everybody associated with this issues hopes the Corps will tie up the issue and be done with it."

Olson says he can't talk about the specific recommendations until after the opinion is written. He says it will be given to the Corps sometime next week.