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Exclusive: How radical Republicans are finishing off an endangered fish

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Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

The pallid sturgeon, a bottom-dwelling fish found in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, has survived since the days of the dinosaurs, but it might not survive Missouri’s Republican politicians.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) sponsored an amendment that made it into legislation Trump signed in October, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, S.3021, to block efforts to help young pallid sturgeon that suffocate and die in the dead zones of the industrialized Missouri River.

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“For the sake of landowners, businesses and taxpayers, I believe we must halt these activities until the Corps can prove more harm will not be done to Missourians,” Graves said.

The new law blocks plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a dozen areas in the river below Kansas City, Mo., for just-hatched pallid sturgeon to feed and grow in slower, shallower water. Six major dams built on the 2,341-mile river between 1933 and 1964 created dead zones with very little oxygen where the young pallid sturgeon suffocate and die. The fish, which can grow to 80 pounds and live 60 years or more, were listed as endangered in 1990.

Two shallow areas to help newly-hatched pallid sturgeon survive were built at Searcy Bend, near Huntsdale, Mo., and Baltimore Bend, near Waverly, Mo. The law Trump signed blocks building more areas until a report is done about the impact on flood control and navigation.

The American Waterways Operators, the national trade organization for the barge industry, opposes building these areas, saying they could hinder navigation. The organization gave $273,000 to federal candidates in the 2018 election cycle, including $7,500 to Graves.

Despite politicians’ support, the Missouri River plays a very small role in agricultural markets. In 2017, the 5 million short tons of cargo transported, most of it sand and gravel, was 1.6% of what was transported on the Mississippi River.

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Historically, flooding was common on the Missouri River with floods up to 17 miles wide. When Lewis and Clark explored the river, it had multiple channels, islands, shallow sloughs and oxbow lakes. The Corps transformed the river into a nine-foot-deep by 300-foot-wide navigation channel from Sioux City, Iowa to the mouth of the river near St. Louis.

Flooding in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 has been among the worst flooding years in the river’s history. In March 2018, a federal judge ruled that the Corps was responsible for flooding in some of those years because of changes to try to protect endangered species. The damage estimates for this year along the Missouri and Platte rivers already top $1 billion, and that’s just for repairing levees.

John Echeverria, a professor at Vermont Law School, said it is unclear whether flooding of private land along the Missouri in recent years has been any greater than it would have been if the federal government hadn’t spent millions to build the flood control system on the Missouri River.

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Missouri politicians now are proposing the Missouri River Flood Control Prioritization Act, S.1571, which could bar the Corps from trying to prevent extinction of the pallid sturgeon. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sponsors the bill. Co-sponsors include Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa.) Graves is the sponsor of the House version of the bill.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to get its priorities straight, and that means putting flood control and navigation first,” Blunt said.

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Featured image: Pallid sturgeon (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


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Nancy Pelosi roasts Mark Zuckerberg for ‘pandering’ to Trump and his ‘silly’ tantrums

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday mocked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his efforts to appease President Donald Trump's criticisms of major social media companies.

During a press conference, Pelosi said that Zuckerberg "just panders" to Trump in an effort to preserve his business model, which she described as a platform for people to "misrepresent facts" without consequence.

"They knew during the 2016 elections that the Russians were engaged in foul play," she said. "They knew, because they saw where the money was coming from!"

She then turned her attention to Trump's new executive order that will reportedly open up tech platforms to more lawsuits.

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Pennsylvania Dem unloads on GOPers who pushed to reopen as they hid colleague’s COVID-19 infection

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Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims (D) lashed out at Republican lawmakers who remained silent after testing positive for COVID-19.

Democrats this week accused Republicans of withholding information after Rep. Andrew Lewis (R) tested positive for the virus.

"It's been a week, perhaps longer, that House Republican leadership knew that at least one of their members had tested positive for COVID-19," Sims explained in a Facebook post. "But they didn't go on quarantine until they were done serving alongside us, especially those of us that serve on the State Government Committee."

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‘Art of the Deal’ ghostwriter: ‘Psychopath’ Trump is ‘driven by an insatiable narcissistic hunger’ and an obsessive ‘need to dominate’

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President Ronald Reagan, in the 1980s, famously asserted that someone who agreed with him 70% of the time was a 70% ally and not a 30% enemy. But President Donald Trump, on the other hand, is furious if someone disagrees with him even on rare occasions. Author Tony Schwartz, who co-wrote or ghost-wrote Trump’s famous 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” analyzes Trump’s mentality in a May 28 article for Medium — stressing that the president is motivated, above all else, by a “need to dominate.”

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