Missouri River Institute receives $50,000 grant

Missouri River Institute receives $50,000 grant Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) was at The University of South Dakota on Feb. 19 to announce that the Missouri River Institute received a $500,000 grant for environmental and water quality research on the Missouri River.

Johnson said the grant is to be administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and is to focus on issues that are relevant to the Clean Water Protection Act.

"We're incredibly excited to have this money," said Bruce Barton, Co-Director of MRI. "To this point research has been limited because we haven't had a large funding source to get going. But now we can gain momentum.

"The Missouri has always been an ignored river," Barton added. "This is because by the time federal and university resources got interested in doing river studies, the Missouri had pretty much had it in terms of a

natural watercourse because the dams were already built. Now, there's the potential to put the focus back on the largest single river in the U.S."

The Missouri River also faces issues such as bank stabilization, endangered species and the struggle between upstream and downstream states, Johnson said.

"The grant is important to anyone who cares about the Missouri River, which the American Rivers organization has called one of the most endangered rivers in the nation," the senator said. "What is learned at the MRI is directly applicable not only to the Missouri River but all over the world."

The money will also purchase equipment and supplies for the MRI field site in Ponca State Park, NE. The site, located in The University of South Dakota's Research Wing, will be part of the Missouri National Recreational River Resource and Education Center, which will open this spring.

Ponca State Park lies at the eastern gateway of the 59 miles featuring the only unchannelized section of the river bordering Nebraska.

The benefits of this grant will not be limited to college students and professors, Johnson said. The Ponca State Park site will provide a natural outreach for K-12 students and the general public.

The University of South Dakota established the MRI in 1999 to develop and promote scholarly research, education and public awareness related to the natural and cultural resources of the Missouri River Basin. Barton said the MRI gives the university a unique flavor and provides students with many opportunities to do Missouri River related activities in all disciplines.

"The problem has always been that people have never really gotten together to see the river in its entirety," said Brian Molyneaux, also co-director of the MRI. "We needed a place that could act as a voice in a regional and national sense to bring attention to the needs of the river in terms of research and preservation. This is the goal of the MRI."

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