By Michael Wunder, News Editor
Idealistic UNO graduates may find employment opportunities for creating a healthier natural environment closer than expected.
A program aiming to restore the Missouri River basin will likely employ a number of UNO graduates, said Chuck McWilliams, Outreach Specialist for the Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has historically been
an employer of UNO graduates, especially those with degrees in biology,
environmental science or engineering,” McWilliams said. “In fact, several of the key
scientists currently involved in the Missouri River Recovery Program
graduated from UNO.”
The Missouri River Recovery Program, in operation since 2004, has a goal of restoring the Missouri River basin ecosystem while continuing to provide societal benefits to communities along the waterway.
Seeds for the MRRP were sown in 2000, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Biological Opinion noting the negative environmental impact of the Army Corps of Engineers’ operation of the Missouri River. The report brought to light the current danger in which three species dwell: both the interior least tern, a bird, and the pallid sturgeon, a fish, were declared endangered species. The piping plover, another bird, was listed as a threatened species.
In order to prevent these species from being swept downstream into the realm of the Dodo, the MRRP aims to restore their habitat while continuing to maintain and operate the river in a way that meets its eight authorized purposes: flood control, hydropower, water supply, water quality, irrigation, fish and wildlife, navigation and recreation, McWilliams said.
Monitoring data from 2010 found the populations of plovers and terns had decreased 33 percent and 5 percent, respectively, according to an Emergent Sandbar Habitat report issued by the MRRP this month.
In order to increase the populations of the plovers, terns and sturgeons, the MRRP plans to restore the natural habitat of the basin, according to the effort’s website. Restoration would include widening the river channel to create shallow water habitats, building sandbars for terns and plovers and restoring natural cottonwood forests and wetlands.
The program has been working on restoration projects for the past three or four years, McWilliams said. Some, like a mitigation site near the Plattsmouth Chute in Cass County have already been completed with river structure modifications and forest and wetland reconstruction.
The program has no definitive end date, McWilliams said. “This is going to be going on for a while.”