Large rivers are generally those that flow across or along multiple states and have a large watershed or basin area. In the U.S., as well as in most other countries, large rivers have been developed the most by the construction of large dams and other infrastructure to allow us to use and exploit their resources. Both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers have been highly modified with dams and other channelizing structures to maximize the size of barges that navigate them and to extend the season for their use.
The photo below is of a large river, but not one in the U.S. It is a Canadian river placed here to show people what an unmanaged natural large river looks like since we no longer have any natural rivers comparable to the Mississippi or Missouri remaining.
Rivers are the life blood of our nation’s environment and accomplish this by moving water, sediments and nutrients downstream to help build and nourish habitats. Animals travel in and along their waters. They contain floodplains and wetlands, which are among the most productive habitats that exist. They also provide us with invaluable free services that enrich our lives, provide us with natural resources and protect our safety and health. Rivers are also harnessed by utilities, towns, and industry to generate electricity or to cool power plants. Farmers irrigate bottomland crops with them. Rivers are often used as recipients of our wastes while also serving as sources of our drinking water. They often support commercial and recreational fisheries. They are central to a healthy environment and our economy.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment works to protect all rivers in Missouri with significant focus on helping to protect and restore the health of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Missouri borders 483 miles of the Mississippi River and borders or contains 553 miles of the navigable Missouri River, which gives Missouri the privilege of stewarding significant portions of these national resources.
Large rivers are typically the aggregation of smaller rivers and have all of the same attributes, only on a much larger scale. Their health and protection have huge impacts upon the well-being of Missourians whether it’s providing a food supply for wintering bald eagles, irrigation water for farming, devastating communities with floods, or supporting entire community water systems. Rivers matter to Missouri
MCE represents our members in federal and state agency meetings regarding the authorized purposes of both of our biggest rivers. The ‘Authorized’ Purposes include hydroelectric power generation, water supply, water quality, irrigation, flood control, navigation in support of commerce, recreation and fish & wildlife. The management of the river is then based upon these authorized uses. Our specific focuses are the expansion of more natural areas within the rivers and appropriating adequate long-term funding to accomplish needed river restoration.
Returning our big rivers to more natural systems will reduce flooding, increase pollution absorption, provide more recreational area, improve wildlife habitat for endangered species, ducks, other waterfowl and migrating birds, and decrease our annual costs of maintaining infrastructure that does little to benefit the general public.