ND Delegation, Governor Oppose Request for Increase in Missouri River Releases

Calls for Increased Releases to Aid Mississippi River Commerce Are Misguided Delegation says

Washington – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven, Congressman Rick Berg and Governor Jack Dalrymple today called on President Obama and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to oppose any request for increased Missouri River releases to meet the commercial needs of Mississippi River interests. 

In a joint letter signed by the North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Kansas delegations, the leaders argued that ”…unlawful releases of additional water from Missouri River reservoirs will only exacerbate the drought-related losses already experienced by the communities, tribes, and industries that rely on water from the Missouri River.”  

The North Dakota leaders sent the letter in response to downstream interests who have requested that the President and Corps increase releases from – among others – the Garrison reservoir on the Missouri River.  Flows in the Mississippi are at historic lows due to drought conditions in the basin. 

The delegations argue that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not have legal authority to release Missouri River reservoir water specifically to aid Mississippi River navigation.  

The Government Accountability Office has previously ruled the Corps is not authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944 to operate reservoirs on the Missouri River for the primary benefit of navigation on the Mississippi River.  In addition, the President has the authority under the Stafford Act to grant emergency declarations to save lives and property, but it does not grant the President the authority to make an emergency declaration for economic assistance.  

The Corps controls flows from the Missouri River reservoirs by following the Master Manual, which was revised in 2004.  Under the Master Manual, the Corps is in the process of reducing flows from the reservoirs due to the drought in the Missouri River basin.