May 08 2012
There Will Be No Storage Charge While Public Provides Input, Senators Say
Washington – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven today said they strongly oppose the Army Corps of Engineers' plan to charge for storage of surplus water at Lake Sakakawea. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy told the senators in separate calls that she was directing the Corps to conduct a round of public comment and rulemaking to determine what would be a reasonable charge for storage of surplus water at Lake Sakakawea. During this process, which could take 12-18 months to complete, the Corps will continue to process current surplus water agreements at no cost to North Dakotans.
“We oppose any plan by the Corps to charge for use of Missouri River water, and we don’t believe they have the legal standing to do so,” Hoeven and Conrad said. “While the agency has said it won’t charge during the comment period, we are still very concerned with their intent to eventually do so. This is a matter of fundamental fairness, and highly ironic just a year after historic flooding on the Missouri.”
In 2010, the Corps released the Lake Sakakawea Draft Surplus Water Report and Environmental Assessment, which proposed restricting access to Missouri River water and charging for storage at Lake Sakakawea to recover the costs of the nearly 60-year-old Garrison Dam project.
In exchange for losing prime lands to create the Garrison Dam, North Dakotans were promised the ability to use Missouri River water for municipal and industrial water supplies and irrigation. To date, North Dakotans have only used a fraction of the promised water. Now, after fifty years, the Corps has decided it should charge us for our access to the natural flow of the Missouri River, the senators said.
“Our state’s residents, tribes and businesses were promised fair compensation when the Garrison Dam was created,” said Hoeven and Conrad. “It’s unfair to renege on this promise and turn around and charge North Dakotans for access to Missouri River water. We’ll keep working to oppose the Corps plan and see that North Dakotans are not charged for water that they have a right to use.”