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BSNP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project

The Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP) Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project (Mitigation) is an effort to mitigate or compensate for losses of 522,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat from development of the BSNP on the Missouri River, extending from Sioux City, Iowa, to the mouth of the river, near St. Louis, Mo, a length of 735 river miles. In doing so, the Corps' priority is to implement features that help with the habitat needs of three listed species: pallid sturgeon, piping plover, and interior least tern. 


Photo of Little Sioux Bend site

The Mitigation Program, run by the MRRP, is an effort to compensate for losses of fish and wildlife habitat that are the result of past channelization efforts on the Missouri River. Mitigation will be used to help meet the objectives of the Biological Opinion.  


The purpose of this effort is to acquire land and develop aquatic and terrestrial habitat on individual sites, with a focus on the habitat needs for three listed species. The project authority allows for the development of approximately 166,750 acres of land in separate locations along the river in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.    

More Information

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 Land Acquisition Authorizations

Mitigation Project goals were established based on historic aquatic and terrestrial habitat losses in the four lower basin states. Congress has authorized the Corps to replace 32 percent of the 522,000 acres of lost habitat through the following three Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA):

WRDA 1986:  Authorized 29,900 acres of private lands and 18,200 of public lands for Mitigation along the Missouri River in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.

WRDA 1999:  Authorized an additional 118,650 acres of private and/or public lands for Mitigation within the same areas noted in WRDA 1986.

WRDA 2007:  States that funds made available for recovery or mitigation activities in the lower basin of the Missouri River may be used for recovery or mitigation activities in the upper basin of the Missouri River, including the States of Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

The table below shows WRDA 1986 and 1999 authorizations split between the states.

State  Private Lands
Authorized WRDA 86
Public Lands
Authorized WRDA 86
All Lands*
Authorized WRDA 99
Total Authorized 
 Missouri 13,200  15,750  75,791  104,741
 Kansas   2,350           0    9,282    11,632
 Iowa   7,200    2,400  14,125    23,725
 Nebraska   7,150         50  19,452    26,652
 TOTAL 29,900   18,200 118,650   166,750

*WRDA 1999 can be used for purchase of new lands or for development of other existing public lands, whatever is in the best interest of the project.

 Coordination and Partners

USACE works with a coordination team, comprised of State and Federal fish and wildlife agencies, In addition, the Corps also works with interested State and local groups on a site-by-site basis for successful project implementation. 

Several resource agencies have been established as project partners. These partners are directly involved in the site-specific implementation, operation and maintenance of the mitigation sites:     

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 Project Locations

The MRRP Sites page shows a list of fact sheets on terrestrial and aquatic habitat that exists on Corps-owned or managed sites.

 Environmental Impact

In the Water Resources Development Act of 1999, the Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project was reauthorized to include an additional 118,650 acres of land to be purchased from willing sellers on which to develop, restore or enhance fish and wildlife mitigation sites. Due to the increase in acres, a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was completed prior to project implementation on the additional acres.

The Preferred Action includes the acquisition and habitat development on up to 118,650 acres of land. The land will be acquired from willing sellers or through easements to restore or enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat on individual sites located along the Missouri River from Sioux City to St. Louis. The Preferred Action includes development of 7,000 to 20,000 acres of aquatic habitat.

 Mitigation Documents
Documents related to the general Mitigation Program and to site-specific projects will be found in the Library.

Land Acquisition - Frequently Asked Questions

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How does the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acquire the land for the project? 

 It is the policy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to purchase lands only from willing sellers. We obtain land from both private and public owners. Private owners are offered fair market value for their land based upon an independent appraisal that will be paid for by the Government. 

How will my land be used for this project? What land management practices will be followed? How will adjoining properties be affected by the project? 

The Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project effort is designed to mitigate, or compensate, for fish and wildlife habitat losses that resulted from past channelization efforts on the Missouri River. Historic river features may be returned to original conditions, existing fish and wildlife habitat will be preserved or improved, shallow water habitat and new wildlife areas will be created. 

This will be done utilizing many different methods including dredging filled-in areas, reopening historic chutes, bank stabilizations, dike notching, pumping water, dike/levee construction, vegetative plantings, vegetation and land management and others.



How much will I be paid for my property?

An individual will be paid 'just compensation' for his/her property. The Federal Courts say that "just compensation" means the current market value of the property, which is ordinarily determined by a comparison of the property to be acquired with similar properties involved in open market transactions between individuals in the local area. The Corps is required to use a qualified and competent real estate appraiser, who is familiar with the land and land values in the area.

What is a Letter of Just Compensation? 

Once an appraisal has been approved, we are required by law to make an offer, in writing, based on the current market value for the property. 

What happens if the Corps' price is not acceptable to me? 

You may be assured that every reasonable effort will be made to come to an agreement with you on the price to be paid for the purchase of your property based on the information derived from the current market appraisal. If an agreement cannot be reached, the Corps may decide to pursue other properties to meet the project's acquisition goals. 

If I have out-buildings on the land I want to sell, am I compensated for them? 

Buildings are compensable. They will be appraised along with the land for their current market value and any offer will include them. 

When will I get my money? 

The Corps will schedule a closing to occur after "Offer to Sell" has been signed and your title is cleared. Normally, this will be scheduled to occur in approximately four weeks, but if agreeable to both parties, can be extended for a period of up to six months. During the closing, a check is delivered.


 Contact Information

Who do I contact for land acquisition and/or questions beyond what is here?


Are oral agreements made by the Corps representatives binding?

All contracts involving land or any interest in land must be in writing. Tentative arrangements based on oral agreement in good faith by both parties are often subject to later misinterpretation and cannot be accepted as binding on either party until reduced to written contract form.

The Corps is represented by individuals who are willing and anxious to furnish information advice, but owners are cautioned not to consider oral statements as binding contracts unless they are incorporated into a contract (option), a stipulation, a lease, or other formal document, properly executed.


 Crops and Timber

What about growing crops and timber? 

The purchase and possession of land by the Corps will normally allow for the harvesting of growing crops. Should the land be needed before the crops are ready for harvest, additional payment will be made for the estimated value of the growing crops. Timber in sufficient quantity and quality to be considered as merchantable will be considered at its fair market value and will be an individual consideration during negotiations. However, the value of scattered merchantable stand will be included in the land valuation. 

Generally, timber considered not to have merchantable value may be cut or marketed until the date of acceptance of the 'Offer to Sell'. After that date, such timber may be cut only by permission from the Corps of Engineers.



Can a private land owner only sell an easement to the Corps and maintain title to the land?

The Corps has approval to obtain fee title to lands from willing private land owners. This will transfer the title and all interest in the land to the Federal Government. The Corps also has approval to obtain sloughing easements from willing private land owners for those lands generally within 250 feet of the river. A sloughing easement allows the owner to maintain title to the land, however, the intent of this easement is to erode the lands away. 

If you are not interested in selling fee title to your land, the Corps highly recommends that you contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Big Muddy Refuge and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Additional information about their programs can be obtained at the following websites: 

US Fish and Wildlife Service: Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS):  Easement Programs 


 Eminent Domain/Condemnation

Will the Corps of Engineers utilize condemnation (eminent domain) proceedings to acquire properties?

The Corps' intent for this project is to acquire land from willing sellers only. However, if a landowner is willing to convey and it is determined that there are title problems associated with the property, "friendly" condemnation may be used to clear the title.


 Expenses (See also Taxes)

Does the Federal Government pay levee / drainage district taxes?

The Corps of Engineers may be purchasing lands that lie on the inside of a levee that provides some protection to the land. However, the Corps does not pay fees or assessments to levee / drainage districts. The Corps will allow access to the levee for maintenance purposes. Please contact the Corps for further information. 

Who pays for the survey (if required), closing costs, or any incidental fees, etc., associated with this acquisition process? 

These expenses are paid entirely by the Corps.



What happens to the money paid to the Corps for leasing land for farming?

Once a property is purchased, the Corps or another agency may administer a lease on the land so that the area does not grow up into weeds and cottonwoods. If this lease is administered by the Corps, a law passed by Congress requires that seventy-five percent of all money received each fiscal year will be paid to the State in which the land lies. These monies are to be expended as the State may prescribe. This is generally in the county where the land is located.


How will negotiations be conducted? 

After the appraiser has completed his work, each willing seller will be provided a written statement showing the amount established as the current market value of the land to be acquired. The statement will include a summary of the appraisal approach and, where only a partial acquisition is required, the amount of severance damage, if any, applicable to the remainder. The appraisal information will then be turned over to a negotiator. The negotiator will contact you, and using this information as a guide, will proceed to negotiate on the sale. 

It is fully realized that the value of real estate is a matter of opinion. Your opinion as to the value of your property will be given full consideration in arriving at an agreed purchase price. When an agreement has been reached a written contract ("Offer to Sell Real Property" or "Offer to Sell Easement") will be executed by you and an officer of the Corps. 

What are "Offer to Sell Real Property" Forms? 

The "Offer to Sell Real Property" and "Offer to Sell Easement" are the documents used to formalize the terms and conditions under which you will convey fee title to, or easement interests over, your property to the Corps. Following negotiations and your execution of the appropriate form, the negotiator with whom you have been dealing will submit the document, with his recommendations, to his higher authority for acceptance consideration. Upon acceptance by the Corps, you will be notified by letter, at which time the document becomes an agreement legally binding on both you and the Corps. You will receive a copy of the agreement for your personal file.

 Public Use

After lands are acquired, will the sites be open to the public?

Yes, Government owned property will be open for a variety of uses including wildlife viewing and hiking. Hunting and fishing on most mitigation lands is allowed subject to rules and regulations of the State. Some sites have "refuge" areas where no hunting is allowed. Overnight camping, campfires, and/or motorized vehicles are not allowed on the mitigation lands.



May I hire a realtor to represent me for the transaction? Who pays for the realtor fees?

Yes, you may hire a realtor, however you are responsible for any fees.

May I hire an Attorney to represent me during negotiations? Do you pay all, or part, of this expense?

Yes. You have the right to hire Counsel to represent you. However, you are responsible for all your attorney fees.


 Taxes (also see Expenses)

Will the money I receive from the sale of my property to the Corps be subject to the Federal Income Tax?

Responsibility for administration of the Federal Income Tax laws rests with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These laws contain special provisions with respect to gains derived from the sale of real estate, including sales made to the Government. Any question concerning the application of these provisions to your own situation and your income tax obligations should be taken up with your accountant and/or the IRS.

How will county and local governments recoup property tax losses?

The Corps of Engineers does not pay taxes to States, counties or local governments. However, the Corps participates in a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT ) program that is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). PILT payments are intended to offset a portion of the property tax revenue that was paid on the land by the previous private land owner. The Corps reports its acquired acreage to the BLM for calculation of PILT payments. The BLM distributes the payments to the state in which the land lies. Generally, the states pass the payments on to the county where the land is located. The amount does not equal the amount of property taxes the previous owner was paying.

More information on PILT can be found at the Department of Interior PILT Program web site.


 Tenant Farmers

I have an agreement with someone to remove crops from my land (Tenant Farmer). Do they have any rights? What is my responsibility concerning them if I agree to sell my land? What is your responsibility? 

Yes, their rights are covered under Public Law 91-646. If you agree to convey your land, you must properly, (and legally) extinguish any oral, or written, agreements with your tenant farmer. This includes giving them proper Notice To Vacate and reaching agreement on removal of the crops (if any). You must also secure their signature on a Disclaimer of Interest. 

Under Public Law 91-646 the Corps is responsible for advising your tenant farmer of rights and benefits available to them. They will be contacted by a Relocation Specialist who will assist them in these matters. There is absolutely no cost to you for this service. 

What about tenant-owned machinery or equipment stored in a shed on my property, (that is) scheduled to be included in the acquisition? Who pays to move it? 

There is a provision in Public Law 91-646 that allows compensation for removal of machinery or equipment. This will be handled by the Relocation Specialist who will contact the tenant farmer to make this determination.


What occurs if title is not clear?

The law requires the United States to pass upon the adequacy of the title to your land before it can be purchased by the Corps. The Corps will check your title and the description of your land with a Title Company or with your county records. It usually will not be necessary to examine your deed or abstract. 

If it is determined that there is something wrong with your title and it cannot be taken care of in another manner, the Corps cannot pay you immediately for your property but will be required to file an eminent domain proceeding for your land and deposit the estimated current fair market value with the court. Since you and the Corps have already agreed to the price for your property, the court will be told that you have accepted the Corps' offer and the court will not change the price. The court will clear your title at no additional cost to you.