For the last three days Missouri River levels have decreased by as much as a foot-and-a-half. In July a federal judge ordered the change in level for the river in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. The Army Corps of Engineers complied with the order just this week. Environmentalists call it a victory for endangered species.
The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are not only two major environmental resources in the region, they're important to the economic success of the Upper Midwest. But sometimes these two purposes clash. What is the future of these rivers and how can their roles co-exist?
The Missouri River has been dammed and channeled for 50 years. The dams have allowed for barge traffic and flood control downstream, but changed the water flow upstream. In the last 20 years several native river species came close to extinction. Wildlife biologists say the endangered birds and fish are an indication of the health of the river. Federal law requires a recovery program.
The future of the largest railroad expansion plan since the Civil War goes before a Federal Appeals court. The Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad's $2 billion project includes hundreds of miles of new and rehabilitated track. It's all part of a plan to haul coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin through South Dakota and Minnesota. The federal government has endorsed the expansion. But that approval faces a challenge from a handful of communities and environmental groups. They argue the project should not proceed in its current form. While the company waits for the courts to settle the future of the plan, the company is moving forward building an empire of its own.
Opera's rebirth continues. La Boheme is on Broadway. Opera tickets are selling well just about everywhere. Opera lovers in Sioux Falls are trying to light the flame in hopes of it catching on there. Two South Dakota natives who are now opera stars perform scenes from several operas as a way of introduction.
Research shows interesting new correlations between exercise and health. Even obese people who exercise are healthier than thin people who don't. A leading researcher on obesity says you don't have to lose weight to be healthy -- you just have to walk.
When the American Heart Association told consumers eggs were high in cholesterol, consumption plummeted. But now, there's a new egg on the market. An egg enhanced with Omega Three fatty acid can actually help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. Minnesota has nearly 11 million hens. It's the 8th highest egg-producing state in the country. Farmers who got out of the egg business now may see a reason to get back in.
Over the next few weeks, some of America's war heros will return home. The B-52 bomber crews from Minot, N.D., will be back at their home base. And B-1B bomber crews from South Dakota's Ellsworth Air Force Base will come back from Iraq. Heroes from past wars are launching a national program to talk to school kids. The program was founded by former South Dakota Gov. Joe Foss. The inaugural presentation was in Sioux Falls.
A new marketing campaign in South Dakota is sparking an old debate. This time a birth control pill is the target. Officials from Planned Parenthood want women to know there are medical options besides abortion. Opponents of legal abortion says the pill promotes promiscuity and is an easy fix.
Ranchers in western South Dakota are watching a storm system very carefully. The storm rolling across the plains this week, is crucial. In a region that's seen two years of drought, any snow or rain in the forecast could break the billion dollar drought.
Veterans Affairs medical centers have seen an explosion in the number of patients across the country. Patient loads have increased by as much as 60 percent over the last seven years. The Sioux Falls VA clinic serves veterans from one of the largest regions in the country, and 23,000 patients are enrolled there. Many drive hours to see a doctor. Nationally, the V.A. is looking for ways to be more efficient. The Sioux Falls clinic is already changing things. Doctors are using new techniques to treat more patients every day.
I wanted to do this story on student debt, because I know first-hand how hard it is to get out of credit card debt. I also know how easy it is to fall behind financially. It's very difficult to find someone in financial trouble, to talk about it. But Nick Green and Nate Helling were gracious enough to open their checkbooks and talk about their choices. Their classmates who have financial trouble wouldn't talk. So here's a personal story -- one I'm not very proud of -- but one that will stay with me for a very long time.
There were more bankruptcies filed in 2002 than ever before. The American Bankruptcy Institute reports non-business filings broke records last year. More than 1.5 million people filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a 7 percent increase from the previous year. Many blame poor spending habits and high credit card debt. The use of credit is important for recent college graduates. The choices they make about money at that time can stay with them for years.
Two major regional orchestras in the Upper Midwest are searching for a new Music Director. The Fargo/Moorhead Symphony is interviewing five possible conductors. In Sioux Falls the South Dakota Symphony will form a committee in January to begin a search. Music Director Susan Haig abruptly left during her second season in Sioux Falls.
Modern violin makers want to unravel the mysteries of how the old great instruments, such as Stradivari violins, were made. One St. Paul violin maker is taking CT scans of 17th and 18th century stringed instruments in hopes of unraveling some of the mysteries.