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Judge Denies Request to Suspend River Ruling

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – A federal judge in Washington Tuesday denied a request from the U.S. Justice Department to delay a ruling ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to lower Missouri River water levels.

On Saturday, Judge Gladys Kessler ruled the Corps must reduce flows at a South Dakota dam to protect endangered fish. Corps spokesman Paul Johnston says Kessler's order conflicts with a ruling from another federal judge in St. Louis to keep water high for barges.

"We have gotten into a routine now of trying to manage the flows from the reservoirs by judicial decision, and obviously we end up with an awful lot of fits and starts when that happens," Johnston said.

Environmental groups are praising Tuesday's action. Chad Smith of the environmental group American Rivers says the Corps is wrong to argue the decisions are contrary.

"By complying with Judge Kessler's order, they can at the same time comply with the 8th Circuit court ruling, and be in compliance with both," Smith said.

The U.S. Justice Department, siding with the Corps, is appealing Kessler's ruling.