ND officials objecting to Corps' 'fee-for-water-use' proposal

Aug 29, 2012

A plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to charge water users living along Missouri River reservoirs for that water isn’t sitting well with the basin states.

The Corps has been holding public meetings throughout the Missouri Basin to discuss its proposal.

"In all five draft reports we've provided, where there is surplus water available in each one of the reservoirs, we have quantifed the amount we believe is available, and we have a policy price for that surplus water," said Larry Janis, the Corps' project manager for surplus water studies. He says the Corps' authority to do this comes from the 1944 Flood Control Act, better-known as the Pick-Sloan Plan.

North Dakota state officials and other Missouri River users dispute that.

"It's the state's water," said State Water Commission engineer Todd Sando. "We have the rights to the natural flow, and the Corps should not have the ability to charge us for our water."

That was echoed by Terry Fleck of Bismarck, who chairs the group, "Friends of Lake Sakakawea."

"We simply aren't buying what you (the Corps) is selling us," said Fleck. "The water was our before you built the dam, and we believe the water is still ours."

Fleck says the state gave up a lot of valuable land for the reservoir.

"Imagine no dams. What would it have cost this country if there hadn't been a dam?" said Fleck. "Do we in North Dakota get flood credits?"

Sando says it's also a matter of fairness.

"So after 60 years, the Corps wants us to have storage contracts with them?" said Sando. "And only us that live along the reservoirs, no one else along the Missouri River?"

State officials say they're willing to take this to court -- if the Corps doesn't back down.