Missouri River advocates looking for statewide support | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Missouri River advocates looking for statewide support

Jun 5, 2015

03055 Mo River meeting                                        6-4-15 ddt

A group advocating for North Dakota’s interests when it comes to the Missouri River wants to expand the group to be a statewide organization.

The North Dakota Missouri River Stakeholders held its spring conference in Bismarck. Organizers say it’s designed to get more than state leaders involved in the issues.

"It's not enough to have the state leadership say, 'It's not fair," said Ken Royce of Bismarck, who chairs the Stakeholder's group. "The federal government agencies listen better to the grassroots concerns that get raised. Now, that's a theory -- but it's a theory I think works."

Royce says his group and state officials have an argument about how the Missouri is managed by the Corps of Engineers.

"They treat North Dakota as a working reservoir," said Royce. "If they need water, they drain us. If they don't, they fill us up and flood our recreational docks. Why are we a working reservoir? That wasn't an authorized intent, to make us suffer all the consequences for downstream benefits."

"Our state's growing," said State Water Commission engineer Todd Sando. "There's industrial growth, and that means a need for more water supply. We need access to the Missouri River water, not only for people along the river, but for the entire state."

Lance Yohe of the Red River Basin Commission is consulting the Missouri River group.

"We're recommending this new organization have a large board of directors that includes people from eastern North Dakota," said Yohe. "There's still a focus on people who are directly involved with the river, who live on the river, or who get their water from the Missouri. But it should be a statewide effort."

Royce says plans are underway to bring Missouri River water to the Red River valley during droughts – showing the importance of the Missouri to the entire state.