River Symposium

Ron Zelt of the USGS, Nebraska Water Science Center discusses the suitability of using reservoir delta sediment from Lewis and Clark Lake delta as proppant in the fracking industry. His research, along with that of 12 other scientists was presented Thursday at the 2016 Missouri River Institute Symposium.

The 2016 Missouri River Institute Symposium was held Thursday on the campus of the University of South Dakota where everyone from chemists and biologists to National Park Service representatives and geologists shared their information on research done in the last several months on the Missouri River, and what impacts the data they have collected will have on the river and the people who live along its banks.

David Swanson, Director of the Missouri River Institute and Professor of Biology at USD said that sharing of findings falls directly into line with the goal of the institute founded in 1999.

“The goal of our Missouri River Institute is to promote research, education and outreach related to the Missouri River and its basin,” he said. “That entails a lot of different issues. You have heard talks today from everything from sediment issues to wildlife and hydrology: all of those things are impacting the river and the basin. I think it all impacts the quality of life we see in this area. These topics are of interest to a lot of folks.”

Swanson said the interdisciplinary aspect of the symposium is one of the things they celebrate.

“It is not just a bunch of biologists or a bunch of geologists together,” he said. “We get a variety of people into the room at the same time. We even have some farmers here in the room asking questions today.”

Topics discussed focused on sedimentation patterns and usage, wildlife impacts, and so much more.

“It is pretty variable depending on what you are looking at,” he said. “Some of the issues like the one we just heard from Mark Sweeney on the development of the delta on the Lewis and Clark Lake is an issue that highlights a lot of these things because it does create a delta habitat where there is a wildlife benefit. But at the same time there is the sediment going in there that is filling in the lake and is going to have an impact on recreation. So, there all kinds of connections and bringing people into the same room you get some conversations going that otherwise wouldn’t happen. That is the real benefit of the symposium.”

Swanson stressed that even though the research can be complex, it is presented in a way that is very accessible to members of the community and he hopes that more people will attend in the future.

“I think why it matters is the data that we have can inform policy issues on how the river is going to managed,” he said. “There are a lot competing issues when it comes to river management, but if you know what impacts a certain decision is going to have, it helps you weigh the plusses and minuses of that decision. So, I think making better informed decisions is really the key aspect of a lot of this.”

He also noted that there is a lot of variability in the data presented, specifically on the changes seen on the river.

“Part of it is, (the river) stays the same a lot more now than it did before the dam,” Swanson said. “Some of that variability of what you had before the dam is what made that whole ecosystem go and some of that is lost now. Can we mediate for that and is it important – those are some of the questions we need to be asking.”

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