A Storm Brewing over the Missouri River
South Dakota's interests in the Missouri River are in jeopardy. A draft US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) "surplus water report" threatens South Dakota's interests in at least two major ways.
First, the Corps wants to determine whether water is available from the Missouri River to satisfy certain types of uses as well as existing water uses from the mainstem reservoirs. To this point, allocating water has been reserved to the states, not to the federal government. While not prohibiting the South Dakota from allocating water, the state's allocation will be nullified if the Corps does not grant their own approval. Effectively, the Corps gains veto power state approval.
Secondly, the Corps also plans to start charging a fee to certain water users above the mainstem reservoirs as detailed in a "surplus water report" prepared for Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. This fee would be assessed despite the availability of sufficient natural flows to meet allocation needs rather than reliance upon water stored in the mainstem reservoirs.
Protecting South Dakota's interests in the Missouri River -- Governor Daugaard is opposing the Corps surplus water reports, proposed water fees, and reallocation studies
Gov. Dennis Daugaard's letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opposes all of the Corps’ activities related to reallocation of and charging for surplus water taken from the Missouri River reservoirs. (see April 22, 2013 Corps presentation on Missouri River Municipal and Industrial Allocation study)
Reasons for the Governor’s opposition include:
- Under this proposal, the Corps would control management of the water used for current and future municipal and industrial use. The ability for states to manage their own water supplies for the benefit of their citizens is a state’s right that has long been recognized by the federal government;
- It is a state's right to have jurisdiction and access to natural flows through their state water right programs;
- Existing uses in South Dakota are less than the natural flows so the Corps has no jurisdiction or authority to charge for water used in South Dakota.
Gov. Daugaard says, "Upstream states have already paid a heavy price for the Missouri River reservoirs when more than 500,000 acres of our most fertile river bottom lands were permanently flooded. To impose all reservoir operation and maintenance costs on upstream states alone adds insult to that injury."
Read the Governor’s entire letters:
- November 16, 2018 letter to Congressional delegation regarding Corps
- March 15, 2017 letter to US Army Corps of Engineers opposing proposed rule
- May 2, 2014 letter to Congressional delegation regarding Corps
- August 6, 2013 Western States Water Council Letter in Support of States' Rights to Manage Missouri River
- October 9, 2012 letter about Corps draft surplus water reports
- October 4, 2012 letter about Corps proposed reallocation studies
- August 27, 2012 letter for the Corps at their public meeting in Pierre
DENR testimony to U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight - Chairman Senator Rounds:
- June 13, 2018, DENR Secretary Steven Pirner, PE
- August 22, 2017, DENR Chief Engineer Jeanne Goodman, PE
- March 31, 2016, DENR Secretary Steven Pirner, PE
Federal Legislation Preventing the Corps from Implementing Surplus Water Reports and Fees. The "Water Resources Reform and Development Act" passed Congress in May 2014. The final version of the bill includes a provision (Section 1046) creating a 10 year moratorium barring the Corps from charging water users a fee for using surplus water from the Missouri River reservoirs. South Dakota believes that water naturally flowing through the state's boundaries belongs to its citizens and should not be subject to a fee assessed by the Corps.
- February 8, 2019, DENR Secretary Steven Pirner, PE - Written comments concerning guidance implementation of provisions of WRDA 2018, WRDA 2016, and WRRDA 2014
Other Missouri River Issues. South Dakota is also involved with several other studies and issues involving the Missouri River. A listing and description of those items is available on the Missouri River Issues webpage.
Review of Corps response to 2011 Missouri River Flood and 2012-13 Drought. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has completed a review of Corps' actions taken during the 2011 flood event and during drought conditions the following two years in 2012 and 2013. The findings and report are available here.