By John E. Thorson
The Missouri River is synonymous with western history. From its mouth near St. Louis to its headwaters west of Bozeman, Montana, America’s longest river evokes the legends of Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, steamboats, epic floods and monumental dams. Congressional passage of the 1944 Pick-Sloan Plan initiated decades of dam construction, flood control and navigation improvements on the river. The Missouri has also been the venue for waves of litigation and conflict—somewhat ironic given the generally plentiful river. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s (USACE) revision of the Master Water Control Manual for operating main-stem reservoirs on the river, commenced in 1989, took 15 years to complete in the face of controversy over how the many users of the river would be affected.