Pols, Businessmen Battle Over Missouri River

It’s the longest river in the United States, spanning eight states and more than 25,000 miles, and it's overflowing with controversy.

Government leaders, business owners, farmers and environmentalists, all with different interests, are battling with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan on how the Missouri River (search) should flow.

”The requirements sometimes are conflicting, and the purposes of the river conflict sometimes,” said William Grisoli of the Army Corps of Engineers (search).

Click in the video box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.

The Army Corps opens and closes dams at various times of the year, but how and when that is done is creating a torrent of distress.

Timing is key in the debate over the Missouri. Farmers want the river to be lower in the spring so crops don’t flood, but business owners say a low water level prevents barges from delivering their products.

"A spring rise could negatively impact the available supply of the commodities and crops grown in the Missouri River basin, which would raise prices at the grocery store," river basin farmer Lanny Meng said.

But riverboat captain Bill Beacom disagrees, pointing to the impact low water levels have on business.

”We used to have anywhere from 115 to 140 barges in Sioux City. There will probably be none this year. There were none last year, and the year before there was probably less than 30," Beacom said.

Then there’s the endangered pallid sturgeon (search), which environmentalists say requires a delicate balance between spring and summer water levels in order to reproduce.

The fish needs higher water levels in the spring to spawn, but lower levels in the summer to produce offspring, environmentalists say.

Aggravating this huge wave of worries is a 7-year drought, with some reservoirs only half full.

According to boater Ken Hericks, ”Water levels are down I think pretty close to 50 feet from when they were up in '96, '97."

The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to have an agreement by midsummer on the flow of the Missouri, but environmentalists say the government should just stay out of the fight and let nature take its course.