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Almost back to normal: Corps of Engineers releases draft Missouri River operating plan

WaterWebster.org Staff Report

September 30, 2009

After nearly 10 years of drought, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates a return to nearly normal water operations along the Missouri River, according to the proposed 2009-2010 annual plan. A draft of the Annual Operating Plan for the Missouri River was released for public comment Sept. 28 with a series of public meetings scheduled for Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Missouri. Oral and written comments will be accepted by the Corps until Nov. 20. The draft plan anticipates that with normal or above normal runoff, there will be a full service, full length 2010 navigation season. The final determination on season length will be made after the reservoir storage check on July 1, 2010.

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Missouri Sen. Kit Bond calls Army Corps' river plan 'nuts'

Sen. Kit Bond has renewed Missouri concerns about federal efforts to restore an endangered fish on the Missouri River. Bond called the means to achieve the goal of improving conditions for the pallid sturgeon "nuts" and environmentally unsound. The Republican said he'll do his best to derail the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' $70 million funding request. The corps said it's reintroducing sediment, not moving soil from upland farms. The National Academy of Sciences is studying the sediment issue. AP/Columbia Missourian_ 6/22/09

Kansas officials warn of sewage discharge into the Missouri River

Health officials in Kansas are warning communities along the Missouri River following the discharge of raw sewage into the river in Atchison on Wednesday. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the Atchison wastewater treatment plant lost its pumps and motors after a power surge, causing a bypass of sewage into the Missouri River. Officials say that they expect power to be restored to the plant on Wednesday afternoon. Officials are warning individuals to avoid contact with the Missouri River and to restrict pets and livestock from contact with river water until the extent of the impact from the sewage bypass can be determined. KDAF-TV_ 4/8/09

Independence, Missouri reaches $705,000 settlement with EPA over sewer system

According to an agreement announced today with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, the city will pay a settlement penalty of $255,000 and also spend $450,000 on a supplemental environmental project. That effort will include soil and bank stabilization, and the use of native grasses and flowers to replace fescue grass at three of its water detention basins. The city’s efforts will be aimed at keeping millions of gallons of untreated sewage from flowing into local urban streams and the Missouri River watershed each year. The Clean Water Act violations included 430 sanitary sewer overflows, resulting in the discharge of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Missouri River since October 2000. Kansas City Star_ 3/31/09

Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota work to protect good water from bad

The bad water is rising from the swollen Red River. The good water is flowing through the cities' drinking water and sewage treatment plants, and officials say protecting the good water from the bad is their top concern. "If we lose water and sewer, the city is uninhabitable," said Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral. In 1997, Grand Forks lost both its drinking water and sewage treatment plants to rising floodwaters. AP/Star Tribune_ 3/30/09

Garrison Dam releases increased again

The corps in a historic move stopped releasing water from the dam on the Missouri River on Tuesday to help relieve ice jam flooding problems at Bismarck, North Dakota. Dam releases resumed Thursday night at 3,000 cubic feet per second, were increased to 6,000 cfs yesterday and then to 9,000 cfs today. That provides enough flow to enable two idled electric power plants in the region to resume operations and to bolster drinking water supplies for the city of Washburn. AP/KXTV_ 3/28/09

Corps of Engineers plans to increase Missouri River  levels to protect pallid sturgeon

With one of the three conditions met, the Army Corps of Engineers is continuing with its plan to put a pulse of water into the Missouri River later this month for the benefit of the endangered pallid sturgeon, according to a news release issued Friday. The other two conditions, downstream river flows and National Weather Service predictions for significant rain, will be evaluated just before the anticipated two-day peak. The pulse is part of the 2003 Amended Biological Opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The 2009 Annual Operating Plan contains a detailed description of continued drought conservation measures because reservoir levels are still below normal.  There will be reduced navigation support, reduced hydropower generation, and lower than desired reservoir levels.  Steady to rising reservoir levels during the spring fish spawn at the three large upper reservoirs are likely if there is normal or above normal runoff.  However, continued drought conditions may not make that possible at all three. The 2009 Missouri River navigation season will open at St. Louis, Mo., on April 1. Because of the below normal storage, only minimum service flow support will be provided for navigation and other downstream uses.  Forecasts show that the navigation season will be shortened 0 - 30 days.  The final decision on season length will be made following the storage check on July 1. News Release_ 3/6/09

February, 2009

Good news: Missouri River mountain snowpack near normal

Missouri River water users got a "glimmer of hope" that water storage in the region's six major reservoirs will continue to recover because the mountain snowpack is near normal so far this year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the plains snowpack is below normal, the current forecast for runoff in 2009 is 22.3 MAF, 90 percent of average, according to a Corps news release. “The snowpack is a good sign, but it’s too early to be very optimistic about significant recovery,” said Larry Cieslik, Chief of the Water Management office in Omaha, Nebraska..  “2008 was the first year since 1999 with runoff above the normal 24.8 MAF.  The higher inflows helped, but another major contributor to the higher reservoir levels was the weeks of low releases due to good downstream tributary inflow. It remains to be seen if downstream inflow will be good again this year.” The 2009 Annual Operating Plan contains continued drought conservation measures because reservoir levels are still below normal.  There will be reduced navigation support, reduced hydropower generation, and lower than desired reservoir levels.   There will be two “spring pulses” released from Gavins Point Dam this year, one in March and one in May. News Release_ 2/9/09

Sinking Missouri River  could damage infrastructure

As engineers figure out why the Missouri River is sinking, the dropping riverbed could eventually threaten billions of dollars in property development, undermine the stability of levees and bridges, and make boat travel more difficult by exposing navigation hazards. It has already cos tKansas City, Missouri's largest city, millions to ensure water for a half-million customers. The water is physically lower on the Earth because the river bottom is washing away. Federal data show that in the most problematic areas the steam bed has dropped by about 12 feet over the last 50 years. Since at least the 1920s there has been a gradual decline in the Missouri River's elevation, but the drop has been precipitous over the past decade. AP/Wichita Eagle_ 2/8/09

2008

South Dakota pipeline ready to move Missouri River water to Oglala Sioux Tribe at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

The giant Mni Wiconi water project is ready to deliver the first Missouri River water to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, two decades after Congress first authorized the pipeline project. South Dakota's congressional delegation will join officials from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and three Lakota tribes Wednesday for a ceremony in Wanblee to mark the first delivery of river water on the reservation. The Mni Wiconi Rural Water System is designed to provide good quality water to more than 50,000 people in nine counties and three American Indian reservations west of the Missouri River. The project stretches from Fort Pierre, where Missouri River water is treated and pumped into a pipeline, to the Pine Ridge reservation, parts of which are more than 200 miles from the treatment plant. Mike Watson, head engineer for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the lead sponsoring agency for Mni Wiconi, said officials estimated that spending on the project will reach $364 million this year, with the total cost of the 4,200-mile pipeline system to reach about $450 million by the time it is completed in about five years. The federal government is paying the whole cost for reservations and 80 percent of the non-reservation portion. The project is considered 80 percent complete now, with the rest to consist of small-diameter pipes that will deliver water to people, Watson said. Mni Wiconi is designed to serve 52,000 people but will reach more, he said. Beatrice Daily Sun_ 8/18/08

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan assures funding to bring Missouri River water to rural area

At a Sunday afternoon meeting in Linton, U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) brought the biggest news to Emmons County since the late 1940s when KEM Electric Cooperative brought electricity to the area and the 1950s when BEK Telephone Cooperative established rural telephone service. Sen. Dorgan announced that he is on track to get funding in Fiscal Year 2010 to bring rural water from the Missouri River to Emmons, McIntosh, Logan and Kidder Counties via a $68-million, three-year project. Doug Neibauer of Bismarck, Executive Director/Manager of the South Central Regional Water District (SCRWD), said construction could begin as early as the fall of 2009 since FY 2010 begins Oct. 1, 2009. Sen. Dorgan chairs the U.S. Senate Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations, a position that gives him significant influence over funding for water projects as well as for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He was instrumental in securing $12 million to build the first phase of the project, which expanded the Burleigh County system to more rural users and to the City of Wilton and surrounding area. Emmons County Record_ 8/9/08

Montana officials wary of rising area reservoirs

For the first time in years, state water officials are concerned with rising levels at some area reservoirs. Canyon Ferry Lake, the only storage reservoir on the Missouri River between Dillon and Fort Peck Reservoir, is about 4 feet from overflowing, about one foot less than its average for this time of year, a reservoir official said. Though reservoirs are healthier than years past, flooding isn't a concern elsewhere. Montana's largest body of water, Fort Peck Reservoir, has come up about five feet this spring, said Darin McMurry, the lake manager. Mountain snowmelt probably will bring the water level up another four or five feet in the next month or so, he said, adding the reservoir is still about 30 feet below the ideal level. It could take years of above-average rainfall to add that much water to the 240,000-acre reservoir, McMurry said. On the other hand, a very rainy spring and summer in 1993 brought the water level at the reservoir up by 23 feet in about six months. Great Falls Tribune_ 6/15/08

New runoff forecast better for North Dakota's Lake Sakakawea

New projections from the Army Corps of Engineers show more runoff in the Missouri River system, which is good news for thirsty reservoirs in the upper basin. The June runoff numbers from the corps project 21.2 million acre feet of water in the Missouri system. That's an increase of 1.2 million acre feet from the May outlook. An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre, a foot deep. The corps says the improved outlook is due to a to a mountain snowpack that reached 105 percent of normal.  AP/WDAY 6/4/08

Minot, North Dakota says 1 percent sales tax won't hurt Northwest Area Water Supply project

A 1 percent sales tax will generate enough money for both a community bowl and the Northwest Area Water Supply project, city officials reported at a news conference Thursday. Mayor Curt Zimbelman and Alan Walter, Minot public works director, said a ballot measure proposing to divert half of the 1 percent sales tax dedicated to NAWS to fund a community bowl for three years won’t affect the NAWS timeline or finances. The NAWS project is to bring Missouri River water to Minot and surrounding communities. Alan Walter, Minot public works director, said calculations of the State Water Commission show there would be more than enough money for both projects through 2011. After the full tax is restored to NAWS in July 2011, collections and reserves will be adequate to take NAWS to completion on schedule, he added. Minot residents will vote on the tax measure June 10. Minot Daily News_ 5/29/08

April runoff down in Missouri River system

Runoff into the three upper Missouri River reservoirs was only 33 percent of normal in April and the level of all three lakes fell, the Army Corps of Engineers said. There was little rain in the Dakotas or Montana and cool weather slowed the melting of mountain snowpack, the corps said. AP/Bismark Tribune_ 5/12/08

U.S. judge upholds Missouri River water release

Despite the floods that ravaged parts of Missouri last week, a federal judge on Tuesday denied the state attorney general’s request to block the release of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from a dam into the Missouri River. Siding with the Army Corps of Engineers, Judge Jean C. Hamilton of Federal District Court here ruled that the planned “spring rise,” a 48-hour infusion of water intended to mimic seasonal water increases and help the sturgeon population, was not unlawful. On Monday, the attorney general, Jay Nixon, a Democrat running for governor, requested a temporary restraining order to halt the release, scheduled for early Wednesday. After the ruling, a spokesman for Mr. Nixon, Scott Holste, said an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had been denied. The corps estimates that the water, to be released at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D., will raise the water six inches and even less in 12 days, when it meets the Mississippi just outside St. Louis. On Tuesday afternoon, the Missouri near St. Louis was 4.8 feet below flood stage and falling. In St. Louis, the Mississippi was 3.7 feet below flood stage. New York Times_ 3/26/08 (logon required)

Group seeks detailed Missouri River study

A group of states, including Wyoming, and American Indian tribes is asking for a first-of-its-kind study on the Missouri River reservoir system. Representatives of the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (MoRAST), meeting in Nebraska City, Neb., this week, voted to request a "Section 216" study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That is a section of the Flood Control Act of 1970 that allows for reviews of corps projects that have been affected by changes in physical, economic or environmental conditions. The study would include things like upstream recreation, downstream barge traffic, flood control, hydroelectric power generation and irrigation. A 216 study would be the first of its kind because it would scrutinize the authorized purposes of the reservoir system rather than the manual that the corps uses to carry out those purposes, said David Pope, MoRAST's executive director. MoRAST was formed in 2006 by joint resolution of the Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights Coalition and the governors of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. AP/Casper Star-Tribune_ 2/29/08

Spring rise on Missouri River expected in March, but not May

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to conduct a spring rise on the Missouri River in March to encourage spawning by the pallid sturgeon, a fish considered an endangered species. But officials say there won’t be enough water to boost flows again in May. An agency spokesman says extra water will be released into the river from upstream dams beginning on March 17th or 18th. The spring rise was canceled last year because of lingering effects of a drought. AP/Journal -Star_ 2/29/08

Water worries persist in the Missouri River basin

Kansas City may be damp this winter, but an eight-year drought in the upper Missouri River basin is lingering — and so is the watch on river levels. Below-normal snow and rain this winter in the Great Plains means water releases from upstream reservoirs will remain at minimum levels, and Kansas City-area utilities will monitor conditions to ensure they have enough water for intake pipes. Deep snow in the mountains at least provides some hope for drought relief, said Paul Johnston, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Neb. Kansas City Star_ 2/17/08

South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson fights for water pipeline

Senator Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is fighting to secure money for the Lewis and Clark Water Pipeline Project. It would supply drinking water from the Missouri River to Harrisburg, Sioux Falls, and and the community of Tea. During a tour of Tea, Johnson saw how the drinking water would go to Tea's business district to the school district and everywhere in between. In December, Johnson secured $26.5 million dollars for the water pipeline project. He said that's short $9 billion dollars of what's needed to complete the project by 2012. President Bush proposed zero dollars in federal funding for the project this year. The senator said, "He just doesn't get it; our need for drinking water in our part of the country."KSFY_ 2/16/08

January, 2008

Missouri governor objects to water diversion to Red River basin

Missouri officials are concerned about a proposal that could divert water from the Missouri River Valley into North Dakota and further strain local utilities. Gov. Matt Blunt is asking state agencies to take legal steps against the proposed $660 million water diversion into the Red River basin that flows toward Hudson Bay. Blunt indicated Kansas City area electric and water utilities already have needed to lower intake pipes in the river because of low water flows. An eight-year drought in the river’s upper basin has prompted minimal water releases from upstream reservoirs. Canadian provinces bordering the Red River also oppose the project. Canadian officials fear harmful invasive species and fish diseases could be transported to Hudson Bay. But eastern North Dakota has long sought more water for irrigation and drinking. The Bureau of Reclamation recently completed an environmental impact statement that says the diversion is the most reliable and cost-effective way to provide water during a drought to Fargo and Grand Rapids, N.D., and three cities in Minnesota. A ruling on the Red River Water Supply Project is expected this year from Interior Department officials. Kansas City Star_ 1/26/08

North Dakota senator wants Secretary of State Rice to push Canada for water projects

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan is asking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to step into water disputes between North Dakota and Canada. The Northwest Area Water Supply Project and the Red River Valley Water Supply Project would divert Missouri River water to northwest and eastern North Dakota. Canada objects to both projects, fearing that invasive species might enter their waters. AP/Cnews_ 1/11/08

Pipeline that affects Canada is preferred method for Red River Valley water project

The best way to move Missouri River water to eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota would be a pipeline from the existing McClusky Canal in central North Dakota, federal and state officials have concluded. The $660 million pipeline proposal, along with a proposed $110 million treatment plant, is far from final. The secretary of the interior must still sign off on the idea, and Congress must still fund it. Opponents could challenge it in court. The Red River Valley Water Supply Project is aimed at ensuring a future water supply for the valley, especially in times of severe drought. The population of North Dakota's 13 eastern counties and the neighboring Minnesota communities of Breckenridge, Moorhead and East Grand Forks is expected to grow from the current 315,522 to 479,252 in 2050, the report said. The bureau and the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, which represented North Dakota, studied six water supply alternatives for the region. Three options involved moving Missouri River water east, with estimated construction costs ranging from $660 million to $1.1 billion. The least expensive, the bureau's preferred method, would bury a pipeline to move water from the McClusky Canal to Lake Ashtabula north of Valley City. The Missouri River water then would move through the Sheyenne River to the Red River. The project also would include a pipeline from Fargo south to the Wahpeton area. The Red River flows north. The McClusky Canal, which links with Lake Audubon on the Missouri River in central North Dakota, was built years ago as part of the unfinished Garrison Diversion project, an effort to use Missouri River water for irrigation and other purposes. Irrigation is no longer proposed. The Bureau of Reclamation proposes a $110 million treatment plant adjacent to the McClusky Canal to reduce the risk of transferring invasive species into Canadian waters. Crookston Times_ 1/9/08

December, 2007

Corps of Engineers prepares 2008 Missouri River operating plan

Expecting more drought, the Army Corps of Engineers says it plans to conserve water in the Missouri River reservoirs next year. Its 2008 operating plan for the system will be released later this month. But the corps says it expects to release only enough water from the reservoirs for minimum commercial navigation below Sioux City, Iowa. And it says the navigation season will be shorter. AP/KXTV_ 12/9/07

Missouri River storage up slightly from a year ago; drought in 8th year

The Missouri River reservoirs held more water at the end of October than they did a year earlier, but storage was only two-thirds of normal. The downstream commercial navigation season ended 26 days early in order to save water in the six upper basin reservoirs. Larry Cieslik is chief of the Corps of Engineers water management office in Omaha. He says this is the eighth consecutive year of drought for the Missouri River basin. AP/KPTM_ 11/18/07

South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds wants Missouri River management changes

Gov. Mike Rounds has offered to enlist the help of governors in both Missouri River and Mississippi River states to come up with a modern river-management plan. Rounds said he has sent a letter with that offer to Paul Woodley, a top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official who met Tuesday with representatives of nine American Indian tribes and seven Missouri River states on water issues. Management of the river has been controversial, pitting upstream states against downstream states. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana have been pushing the corps to store more water in the reservoirs, while downstream states resist the idea. The 1944 Flood Control Act, which helps dictate how the corps addresses river issues, has been criticized by upstream states, which have maintained that the act is outdated and does not fully address their interests. AP/Argus Leader_ 7/12/07

Missouri River levels highest in seven years

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it's due to heavy rains in early May. Wet weather last month also allowed the corps to cut discharges and save water in reservoirs on the Missouri River, which has been affected by drought since 2000, the agency said. Runoff above Sioux City, Iowa, in May was 123 percent of normal, the corps said. The six Missouri River reservoirs held 38.3 million acre-feet of water at the end of May, an increase of 1.8 million acre-feet of water from the previous month, the agency said. An acre-foot is the amount of water covering an acre, one foot deep. AP/Bismark Tribune_ 6/11/07

Rains let Corps of Engineers save Missouri River water in reservoirs

Runoff from rain was enough to support downstream barge traffic in April, allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to save water in the six reservoirs on the Missouri River. Fort Peck, Oahe and Fort Randall reservoirs gained from 1.2 to 1.9 feet of water in April. The other three reservoirs _ Garrison, Big Bend and Gavins Point _ lost from 0.1 to 0.3 feet, the corps said. Runoff above Sioux City, Iowa in April was 72 percent of normal. Runoff for the year is expected to be 20.3 million acre feet (MAF), 81 percent of normal. The mountain snowpack peaked in late April at 77 to 81 percent of normal, the corps said. AP/Helena Independent-Record_ 5/7/07

Montana tribes hope to tap Missouri River

Though the Fort Peck Reservation fronts more than 100 miles of the Missouri River, the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes have scarcely tapped the waters for economic gain. Tribal leaders say they plan to change that, and hope to eradicate the reservation's poverty in the process. Using billions of gallons of water from the Missouri, they want to irrigate up to half-a-million acres of sandy soil in the surrounding hills to grow potatoes, onions and other high-value crops. The tribes need $45 million for the initial 15,000 acre project. Earlier this month, they asked federal and state officials to subsidize half the cost. The plan's cornerstone is the tribes' state-recognized right to more than a million acre-feet of Missouri River water annually - enough to cover a million acres with water one foot deep - roughly 300 billion gallons. AP_ 3/27/07

Corps says it won't release water from Missouri reservoirs
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not release extra water from upstream reservoirs this spring to boost flows on the Missouri River, the agency announced Wednesday.  The corps said the reservoirs' water levels are too low to have the spring rise, which is done to encourage spawning by an endangered fish. Since 2005, agency plans have called for two pulses of water, one in March and one in May.  No release will be conducted this month because reservoir levels have not reached the minimum of 36.5 million acre-feet of water, said Paul Johnston, a spokesman for the corps' northwestern division office in Omaha, Neb.  Water levels must be even higher for the May release, and Johnston said none of the agency's computer forecasts show storage levels getting high enough.  The spring rise has long been contentious among states along the river. Missouri officials oppose the plan because of possible downstream flooding and interference with the barge industry. Upstream states are reluctant to part with water that could deplete lakes and harm boating and fishing interests.  Rapid City Journal_3/8/07

Towns along the Missouri River worry about running out of water

People living along the Missouri River in North and South Dakota are wondering whether they'll run out of water this year. Towns like Fort Yates and Parshall, North Dakota, have been left high and dry before, and the Army Corps of Engineers says Wakpala, South Dakota
is projected to lose water late this summer. Standing Rock reservation resident Jesse Taken Alive says Fort Yates was without water for days in 2003. AP/KXMB_ 2/20/07

Bureau of Reclamation agrees with North Dakota on sending Missouri River water to Fargo and other Red River Valley areas

Reclamation’s preferred alternative is included in the newly released supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Red River Valley Water Supply Project. North Dakota's preferred alternative, called the Garrison Diversion Unit Import to the Sheyenne River, was chosen because, according to a letter Gov. John Hoeven sent to then Interior Secretary Gale Norton, it provides water needed to sustain the region and benefits to the natural environment without any significant negative impacts. According to the supplemental draft, the GDU Import to the Sheyenne River was chosen by both the state and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation because the Missouri River is a more reliable water source than the Red River (North Dakota In-Basin Alternative) and possibly Minnesota groundwater (Red River Basin Alternative) based on U.S. Geological Survey studies. The GDU Import to the Sheyenne River alternative also is the least costly of the three Missouri River import alternatives, the new report says. The Missouri River import alternatives require congressional approval. Minot Daily News_ 2/10/07

8-year drought triggers water wars on the U.S. Northern Plains

As the worst dry spell since the 1930s shows no signs of abating, many states are squabbling with each other and federal officials. Nebraska and Kansas are wrangling for control of irrigation water from the Republican River. South Dakota has demanded that the Army Corps of Engineers stop drawing down reservoirs in the state because it is hurting recreational fishing. Barge companies along the Missouri River in Iowa are demanding the Corps release more water so their vessels can operate. And Wyoming and Montana are fighting two more water battles in the Tongue and Powder river basins. Montana officials claim Wyoming is diverting too much water from the rivers before they cross the state line, sparking a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit. AP/Environmental News Network_ 2/6/07

December, 2006

Nice weather doesn't help water levels in Upper Missouri River

The outlook for higher levels on the reservoirs in the Upper Basin Region of the Missouri River system is bleak as moisture is scarce so far along the riverbanks. There has been snow in the mountains of Montana, which feeds the Upper Basin system and in the mountains of Colorado, which will help to fill tributaries in the down stream states. Unfortunately, there is little snow on the plains surrounding the river, in Montana, and North and South Dakota. There is still enough time for that situation to change, but according to long range forecasts from the National Weather Service, temperatures are expected to be above normal with an equal chance of normal or below normal moisture for the next three months. In November, there was little or no moisture along the River system in South Dakota, although there was more snow in both Montana and North Dakota. Cold weather prevented much runoff and Lake Oahe rose just more than half a foot in November. The level has fallen in December and now sits slightly above 1573 above means sea level. According to Larry Cieslik, Chief of the Water Management, the reservoir system to a record-low storage of 34.6 million acre feet (MAF) on Nov. 30. Cieslik said reservoir storage is expected to remain relatively level the rest of the year. Mobridge Tribune_ 12/13/06

Missouri loses again to Corps of Engineers in river water fight

A federal judge is siding with the U-S Army Corps of Engineers in its dispute with the state of Missouri over water levels on the Missouri River. The judge says the corps complied with federal law when it approved an artificial spring rise to help preserve endangered
species along the river. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon argued that the plan failed
to consider environmental impacts such as possible flooding downstream. Nixon also accused the corps of ignoring other options that could protect endangered species. No flooding occurred earlier this year when water from upstream reservoirs was released over two weeks in May. A Missouri state government spokesman says the state will appeal. AP/kxnet.com_ 11/30/06

Sediment taking toll on Missouri River

As drought continues, the Missouri River is accumulating more sediment, and the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition wants to make a video to show people the problem. Reservoirs along the river report an approximate rate of 92,500 acre-feet of sediment accumulation per year. That's equal to 10 square miles of mud 14.5 feet deep, the coalition says. That means the river gets narrower and vegetation grows on newly uncovered sandbars. The coalition wants to produce a 15-minute video showing what sediment is doing to the river and its reservoirs, said Sandra Korkow, the group's public information officer. The coalition says educating people is important because sedimentation reduces the effectiveness of hydropower and hurts drinking water and river recreation. AP/Sioux City Journal_ 11/25/06

Nebraska ready to roll on Platte River pact

Gov. Dave Heineman announced Friday that Nebraska will go forward with a three-state agreement for managing flows in the Platte River. Some see the culmination of 10 years of negotiation as a regional and even national model for cooperation in protecting threatened or endangered species and conserving water. Others believe Nebraska is opening itself up to hundreds of millions of dollars in cost and a sharp curtailment of its irrigation future. The known consequences of staying aboard include direct cash payments of $187 million from Wyoming, Colorado and the federal level, contributions of water to surface flows in the North Platte, South Platte and Platte channels from the three states, and a habitat mitigation area in central Nebraska. In laying out his rationale for proceeding, the governor said it offers “the most certainty” that irrigators will not have to engage in one-on-one consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on water use that could threaten their annual farm program payments. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farm organization, re-affirmed its support for Heineman’s decision late Friday. Lincoln Journal Star_ 11/1/06

October, 2006

North Dakota project would send Missouri River water to Red River

Agencies working on the Environmental Impact Statement for a plan to provide long-term water needs to the Red River Valley are taking more time to prepare the supplemental draft. The Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency, and the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, a state agency, are jointly preparing the EIS for the water supply project. Patience Hurley, a public involvement specialist for the Bureau of Reclamation Dakotas Area Office in Bismarck, said 187 comments were received on the draft EIS. According to its Web site, the purpose of the project is to “identify reliable sources of water of sufficient quantity and quality to supply homes, businesses, industries, wildlife and recreation in the Red River Valley within North Dakota through at least the next five decades.” The project is required and authorized by the Dakota Water Resources Act of 2000, the water supply Web site said. There are several proposed plans in the project. One of the plans would send Missouri River water through an underground pipeline to the Sheyenne River near Valley City. The Sheyenne River empties into the Red River. The plan is projected to cost about $660 million. Initially, the comment period on the draft EIS was Feb. 28, which was extended. The Web site notes: “The comment period for the Red River Valley Water Supply Project draft Environmental Impact Statement will remain open until further notice.” Minot Daily News_ 10/26/06

North Dakota officials urge Corps of Engineers to keep Missouri River water upstream

They met with corps officials Thursday night in Bismarck, one in a series of hearings on the corps plan for managing the Missouri River and urged the Corps to keep water in upstream reservoirs hit by drought. Gov. John Hoeven said the eight-month river navigation season often is shortened because of the drought. State Water Commission engineer Dale Frink Frink said he understands the need to balance interests in the Missouri basin, but if he had his way, there would be no navigation season next year. The corps is proposing to shorten it. The drought is in its seventh year, “the longest since the system was built,” said Larry Murphy, the corps' chief, Missouri River Basin water management. The corps also plans two “spring rises” next year, if water levels allow. The rises are designed to re-create the river's ebbs and flows that trigger reproduction instincts in endangered pallid sturgeon. Because of low water conditions, only one was held this year. AP/Jefferson City News-Tribune_ 10/13/06

September, 2006

Missouri River runoff remains low

Runoff into the Missouri River basin continues to be extraordinarily low and likely will be only 71 percent of normal for the year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says. Runoff in August was 46 percent of normal. The amount of water stored in the six reservoirs at the end of August was the lowest on record, the corps said. AP/Bismark Tribune_ 9/19/06

As the Mississippi River drops, so do profits

With every few inches the Mississippi River drops this summer, Billy Joe Ragland and thousands of farmers just like him lose money. The drought that is causing the Mississippi to dwindle started in the spring of 2005 and hasn't loosened its grip yet. And there isn't much chance anything will change for months. Hydrologists at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center expect the marine highway to continue to drop rapidly. There is no significant rain in the forecast and extreme drought conditions are expected to worsen in the basins of most of the Mississippi's mammoth northern tributaries. AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch_ 9/3/06

Kansas officials say no more water from Perry Lake for Missouri River barges

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is heeding concerns from Kansas officials and offering assurances that it won't drain any more water this season from Perry Lake to support Missouri River barge traffic. That's according to state Wildlife and Parks Secretary Mike Hayden, who took part in a teleconference yesterday with Governor Sebelius and Corps officials. The Corps has been releasing water from Perry Lake and two other Kansas reservoirs this summer to feed the Kansas River, which flows into the Missouri River. AP/WIBW_ 9/2/06

August, 2006

Missouri River water levels at record lows

Drought continues to tighten its grip on the Missouri River basin. Tributary contributions to the river in central Missouri have dropped to very low levels due to the lack of rain and much-above normal temperatures, according to a press release Monday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tributary inflow into the river between Kansas City and the mouth north of St. Louis was near the lowest levels in more than 100 years. This low runoff condition means more water is required from the reservoirs to maintain the target flows.” Sioux City Journal_ 8/7/06

Biologists help nature take its course along the Missouri River

A costly effort is underway to mitigate some of the environmental impacts caused a half-century ago when man first dammed the Missouri River for flood control and attempted to turn it into a highway for barges. The total price for future decades of restoration work has been put at nearly $3 billion, making the Missouri one of the largest environmental restoration projects in the country. All along the nation's longest river - particularly in the lower states of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas - engineers are reviving wetlands and woodlands, restoring sandbars and shallow-water habitat, and bringing back chutes, side channels and backwaters long ago walled off from the main channel. Omaha World-Herald_ 8/6/06 (logon required)

July, 2006

Low water in Missouri River irks shippers say Missouri officials

The on-again, off-again flow of barges on the Missouri River this summer has angered Missouri officials and shipping interests who say the Army Corps of Engineers is not doing enough to keep traffic moving. Three times in the past month, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued warnings about the stretch of river between Boonville and St. Louis, where drought and leaky dikes have made the channel too shallow for most tow boats to pass safely. Barge operators have long complained that the corps doesn't release enough water from upstream reservoirs to keep the river navigable. But Paul Johnston, a spokesman for the corps' northwestern division office in Omaha, Neb., said his agency did not create the problems. AP/KCTV5_ 7/28/06

New Missouri River water group forms

Seven states and a tribal water rights coalition have formed an organization to address Missouri River issues. The Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (MoRAST) will represent nonfederal game and fish agencies, tribal interests, and water management agencies, according to South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds. Members of the association are South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, and member tribes of the Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights Coalition. Bismarck Tribune_ 7/26/06

June, 2006

Melting snow adds to Missouri River reservoirs, central South Dakota runoff 'disappointing'

Melting mountain snow is adding water to the Missouri River reservoirs in Montana and North Dakota. However, dry conditions continue throughout the central part of the upper basin, making the anticipated runoff for the year only 77 percent of normal. "The runoff in central South Dakota in May was disappointing," said Larry Cieslik, chief of the Water Management office. "It was only 30 percent of normal into the Oehe reservoir and nearly nonexistent into Fort Randall." River flows to support navigation will remain at minimum service levels. The season length is anticipated to be shortened by 34 to 51 days, depending on runoff this month. The final decision will be based on the water-in-storage check on July 1. Vermillion Plain Talk_ 6/22/06

May, 2006

No flooding from Missouri River spring rise

Water released last week from upstream dams on the Missouri River passed through Mid-Missouri overnight without the flooding that some predicted. Nonetheless, opponents of the spring rise vowed to continue their legal fight to prevent future maneuvers. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the spring rise, but a judge had not ruled on the case and the water was released. The so-called spring rise ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is intended to trigger spawning of the endangered pallid sturgeon, and experts say it will take some time before there is any evidence to indicate whether the move is working. Columbia Tribune_ 5/22/06

Missouri River spring rise under way

Water being released from Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota is peaking at about 25,000 cubic feet per second as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers creates an artificial spring rise on the Missouri River. The increased release is intended to trigger spawning of the endangered pallid sturgeon. Gradually higher releases began at midnight Friday, but a reduction will begin Tuesday and last for 10 days until flows are normal again. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the spring rise from taking place, but the judge has made no decision yet. The corps spent more than a year developing its plan after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 2003 biological opinion that found continued survival of the pallid sturgeon would be jeopardized without a spring rise. AP/Billings Gazette_ 5/15/06

Despite lawsuit, Missouri River rise to go forward as planned

A controversial move to save the endangered pallid sturgeon by artificially rising water levels on the Missouri River will go forward despite a lawsuit to halt it, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed suit Friday to stop the release of water from reservoirs along the upper Missouri River over concerns it would flood farmland. The Corps of Engineers said it would go forth with its plan anyway, sometime before May 19. Along the river's northern reaches, in Montana and the Dakotas, there are worries it will drain reservoirs too much to sustain normal boating and fishing interests. Along its lower banks in Missouri, there is concern crops could be flooded and barging could be sidetracked. However, most environmental groups see the plan as a good way to protect the river's wildlife. The Missouri River stretches about 2,540 miles, making it the second-longest river in the country, behind the Mississippi, which it flows into north of St. Louis. AP/Billings Gazette_ 5/1/06

Missouri sues Army Corps of Engineers over Missouri River spring rise

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed suit Friday to halt plans for an artificial spring rise on the Missouri River. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Minnesota, claims the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider the impact of possible flooding in Missouri before it approved the plan. The corps wants to release water next month from upstream reservoirs in South Dakota to encourage spawning by the pallid sturgeon, a fish on the endangered species list. The corps plan originally called for two spring rises to take place this year, but the first was canceled because water levels in reservoirs that feed the river were too low. A corps spokesman said this week that levels appear to be high enough for the second spring rise sometime after May 1. The releases of water are supposed to replicate the historic rise of the river with the spring melting of mountain snow before dams were built. AP/Belleville News-Democrat_ 4/29/06

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of Missouri River water management

The Supreme Court declined Monday to consider challenges to a court ruling that Missouri River navigation trumps other water interests when the Army Corps of Engineers makes decisions on managing river flows. The case was brought by North Dakota and South Dakota in response to an August ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision said recreation and other water uses on the Missouri's upstream reservoirs are of lesser value than maintaining navigation traffic along the river's shipping channel, which runs from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis. The Supreme Court did not give a reason for rejecting the Dakotas arguments Monday. AP/Billings Gazette_ 4/24/06

February, 2006

Missouri River water levels appear too low for spring release to protect endangered fish

The Army Corps of Engineers will probably scrap plans for a spring pulse next month on the Missouri River because water levels in upstream reservoirs are too low. The agency's plan calls for two pulses of water to be released -- one in March and one in May -- to help revive an endangered fish, the pallid sturgeon. There is still a chance the May release could happen if there is enough rainfall and snow melt over the next two months. Missouri officials strongly oppose the plan, saying it could flood farmers and jeopardize the barge industry. WHOTV_ 2/27/06

January, 2006
North Dakota revives 40-year-old water diversion plan
The state of North Dakota is looking again at the controversial Garrison Diversion water plan to move water out of the Missouri River for use in the Red River Valley.  State officials say more water is needed to stave off the threat of future shortages in the Red River Valley. A draft environmental impact statement, released by the state last week, evaluated several possible options to obtain more water.  The 350-page report indicates the state prefers a Garrison Diversion option that would move water from the Missouri River through more than 190 kilometres of pipeline to the Sheyenne River, which joins the Red River near Fargo.  The province of Manitoba has long opposed the Garrison Diversion proposal, which has been discussed since the 1960s, over concerns about the possible transfer of foreign species from the Missouri River drainage basin to the Red River Drainage Basin, which includes Lake Winnipeg.  CBC.CA _ 1/11/06

Missouri River pipeline in South Dakota getting less from Congress than needed

It may take longer to finish a pipeline that will pump Missouri River water to about 200,000 people in Sioux Falls and 14 other communities and five rural water systems in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. A bill heading to a vote in Congress includes $17.5 million for the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System. The project's executive director, Troy Larson, said it's about half of what developers asked for. It could take years longer to finish the pipeline if Congress shortchanges the project every year, he said. The plan was to get it done by 2016. The project's original cost was $280 million. Funding delays now have raised the cost estimate to $432 million. The project received $18.7 million in the most recent round of funding. Lewis and Clark officials expect almost twice that amount for the next cycle. AP/Yankton Press & Dakotan_ 11/11/05 (logon required)

October, 2005

Corps of Engineers cuts water releases from Missouri River dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started to reduce the amount of water released from Missouri River dams. In a release, the agency said this year's navigation season was cut by 48 days because of low reservoir levels caused by drought. It was the shortest navigation season since 1967, according to the corps. The agency will hold meetings next month on its draft operating plan for the next year. AP/Aberdeen News_ 10/15/05

North Dakota group endorses Missouri River water plan

A group representing 13 counties has endorsed a plan to bring Missouri River water to the Red River Basin. The option endorsed this week by the Lake Agassiz Water Authority was one of eight under consideration to help Red River communities meet projected growth through 2050, especially during a severe drought. Missouri River water would reach the Red River with help from the existing McClusky Canal, linked with Lake Sakakawea as part of the incomplete Garrison Diversion project. A buried pipeline would move water from the end of the 74-mile canal east to Lake Ashtabula, near Valley City. The project would cost an estimated $500 million to $660 million to build and a projected $1.2 million annually to operate, according to a preliminary review by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. AP/Bismarck Tribune_ 10/8/05

Lawyers present case on three-state Lewis and Clark water project to South Dakota Supreme Court

Mark Marshall, a lawyer for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System told the South Dakota Supreme Court on Tuesday that a state law forbidding waterways from being built within 250 feet of homes does not apply to the massive, three-state water project's pipeline. The law dates to the first legislative session in 1890. Marshall said it passed at a time when open waterways were used primarily to irrigate crops and lawmakers worried about their potential to overflow and damage others' property. However, Circuit Judge Bradley Zell ruled in July that the pipeline is covered by a state law preventing it from being located within 250 feet of homes, other buildings, orchards and gardens. The Lewis & Clark pipeline will tap into several wells along the Missouri River near Vermillion and provide 27 million gallons of fresh water daily to residents and businesses in southeastern South Dakota, northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota. AP/Sioux City Journal_ 10/5/05

September, 2005

State support needed to meet Fargo, North Dakota's future water demands

A consultant's study on the cost of meeting Fargo's future water needs assumes the state will contribute up to $316.5 million. Any state contribution would require approval by the State Water Commission and lawmakers. The analysis by EES Consulting of Kirkland, Wash., for the Lake Agassiz Water Authority finds that options for bringing Missouri River water east range from about $425 million to $639 million. The brunt of the cost likely would be borne by Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding area, which has the greatest need for more water. One big unknown is how many cities and rural water systems in the Red River Valley would be a part of the project. AP/In-Forum_ 9/25/05

August, 2005

Board approves agreement guaranteeing Sioux Falls, South Dakota water from the Missouri River

An agreement guaranteeing Missouri River water for Sioux Falls by the year 2012 has been approved by the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System's board. The plan needs only the Sioux Falls City Council's approval before it takes effect. A vote could occur on Sept. 6. The plan spells out how rates will be set and tells how water would be delivered even if federal funding falls short. The new project is slated to serve 15 towns and five rural water systems in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. AP/Aberdeen News_ 8/26/05

Governor wants more water from Missouri River released to help with drought

Gov. Matt Blunt wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from reservoirs on the Missouri River to make sure shipping is not interrupted along the drought-ravaged Mississippi River.  In a letter Friday to John Paul Woodley, the assistant Army secretary who oversees the Corps, Blunt said emergency dredging of the Mississippi is not enough to keep barges moving and prevent massive economic loss. "We are faced with the high probability that the Mississippi River could be shut down to commercial navigation as a direct result of changes in the management of the Missouri River reservoir system," Blunt said in the letter.  Mercury News_8/12/05 (logon required)

Bureau of Reclamation estimates Red River Valley water needs in the year 2050 to range from $500 million to $2.5 billion

The report looks at the technical pros and cons of seven alternatives. The most affordable option would divert water from the Missouri using a canal already built, and pipe water to the Sheyenne River, which flows into the Red River. The most expensive option, ranging from $2.2 billion to $2.5 billion, would use pipelines to divert Missouri River water to Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks-East Grand Forks, Wahpeton-Breckenridge and Valley City. Canada and Minnesota have objected to the idea of transferring Missouri River water to the Red River basin, fearing contamination of their waters. Missouri and other downstream states have resisted proposals to take water from the river. AP/CBC_ 6/1/05

May, 2005

U.S. Corps of Engineers plans to reduce flows in the Missouri River to conserve water and protect birds

Paul Johnston, spokesman for the corps' Omaha district, said the goal is to save as much water as possible while meeting downstream navigation needs and protecting endangered least terns and piping plovers that nest near the river. Johnston said there still will be enough flow to meet drinking water and power plant needs, and most river recreational activities should not be effected. AP/Billings Gazette_ 5/4/05

April, 2005

Army Corps of Engineers says drought causing problems throughout Missouri River Basin

Blaming the Missouri River problems on navigation is too simple, said Col. Jeff Bedey, the corps' Omaha district commander. North Dakotans worry that the corps is releasing too much water from the upstream reservoirs to support barge interests downstream. Bedey said the corps tries to balance the needs along the river. Runoff in the Upper Missouri River Basin is only about 70 percent of normal, the corps said. Bedey said the downstream navigation season will be shortened by up to 61 days due to the dry weather. AP/Grand Forks Herald_ 4/12/05

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to ensure water supply on South Dakota reservation

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said John Paul Woodley Jr., principal deputy assistant secretary of the corps, pledged to ensure that the intake at Eagle Butte will continue to run through anticipated record-low water levels this summer. The water level in Lake Oahe, which stretches from central South Dakota into North Dakota, is about 28 feet below normal after six years of drought. Tribal officials have said the long-term solution is to move the water intake 12 miles to the Missouri River's main channel. That project could cost $70 million or more and take at least several years. AP/Aberdeen News_ 4/7/05

March, 2005

Drought could parch South Dakota Indian reservation

Some 14,000 residents of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation could run out of water by August because of a drought along the Missouri River basin, officials said. "It will be more than just running out of water for a couple of days. There will be 14,000 people that have no water whatsoever," said Wayne Ducheneaux, a tribal official and member of a task force working to come up with a water plan. The reservation lies in Dewey and Ziebach counties, both among the poorest in the state. Ziebach is one of the poorest in the nation. Storage in the Missouri River's six reservoirs has reached a record low of 35 million acre-feet of water, Gov. Mike Rounds said. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/19/05

February, 2005

Missouri River states discuss water, drought

A suggestion to tinker with the downstream navigation season as a means of saving water in the drought-affected Missouri River reservoirs was left high and dry. At a meeting of Missouri River states, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds proposed changing how and when water is released for the downstream barge industry in order to keep more in the reservoirs and avoid a "navigational preclude" that's part of the Army Corps of Engineers' master manual for operating the dams and reservoirs. With Missouri's representative voicing the most opposition to that, Rounds was able only to get agreement that the governors would work on a resolution encouraging the corps to conserve water whenever possible. AP/Aberdeen News_ 2/7/05

Upstream governors press U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold more Missouri River water in Montana and the Dakotas

The governors hope to win backing for a plan that they say could prevent "draconian" measures a year from now, including closing the Missouri to barge navigation. But the upstream quest for water will prove difficult, given the long-running war over the increasingly scarce river water used by Missourians for drinking, power production and barge navigation. Western states along the Missouri River are entering their fifth year of a drought that has imperiled upstream water supplies for drinking, recreation and irrigation. St. Louis Post-Dispatch/KRT/Kansas City Star_ 2/5/05 (logon required)

October, 2004

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it's addressing Missouri River drought impact

The corps manages dams and reservoirs along the 2,341-mile river. Col. Jeff Bedey, the corps' district commander in Omaha, Neb., said the corps is working with government and tribal officials to monitor public water intakes, kill weeds, extend boat ramps and protect cultural resources. But Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said the agency continues to shortchange the upstream states by sending water downstream for a barge industry. AP/Kansas City Star_ 10/21/04 (logon required)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gets an earful at Montana forum to discuss the 2004-2005 Missouri River Draft Annual Operating Plan

What the Corps heard from a crowd of more than 100 politicians, association representatives and members of the public was that Eastern Montana was suffering from extended drought, that the record drawdown of Fort Peck Reservoir was adding to the pain and that Montanans really, really needed some help from the Corps in conserving the state's water. Similar meetings have been held in North and South Dakota and Kansas City, Mo. Billings, Montana, Gazette_ 10/14/04

EPA to begin checking the water quality of the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers

Monitoring will begin next summer and in 2006, the federal agency will issue a report card on the rivers. Future reports will show whether conditions have changed. AP/Kansas City Star_ 10/11/04 (logon required)

Corps of Engineers schedules four public meetings on Missouri River flows

The October meetings will be in North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Missouri. The draft of the river's 2004-2005 operating plan anticipates that there will be only minimum flows for the 2005 navigation season and that it will be shortened 27 to 61 days, depending on runoff this winter and spring. A final determination on season length will be made on July 1, 2005. Press Release_ 9/28/04

Upriver, downriver interests clash in U.S. Senate bill on Missouri River water

Drought-ravaged communities along the upper Missouri River would keep more water, and downstream barge shipping would halt immediately, under a measure that cleared a Senate committee. The battle over who gets more water erupted after lake levels plummeted to all-time lows at the big reservoirs in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota this spring and summer. Along the lower reaches of the Missouri, barge shipping will end early this year, in mid-October, as the Army Corps of Engineers cuts releases from the reservoirs to conserve water. Senators from both regions exchange words. AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch_ 9/15/04


Fargo, North Dakota will need good planning and possibly water from the Missouri River to meet 2050 needs-Report

The report prepared by Grand Forks-based Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services

found that the area will need at least twice as much water each day in 2050 than it did in 2000. In-Forumm_ 8/8/04

July, 2004
Conservation groups appeal Missouri River ruling

Environmentalists are appealing a Minnesota federal court decision to let the Missouri River flow at levels they say will harm endangered fish and birds. The Army Corps of Engineers adopted a plan that it said tried to take into account competing river interests. Upper Missouri River states and conservationists argued for an annual flow that mimiced the river's centuries old habits, rising in spring and ebbing in summer. Down stream interests, particularly barge companies, argued for more summer water to support shipping.   Press Release_ 7/9/04

President Bush praises Missouri River ruling
Bush said he is pleased with a federal court's ruling approving his administration's operating plans for the river. The ruling, which resolves 15 years of litigation, said the river can operate without changes sought by environmentalists to save endangered fish and birds. "The citizens who call the Missouri River home can now better plan for their future as they enjoy the many benefits and abundant wildlife that this extraordinary natural resource provides," Bush said in a statement from Shannon, Ireland, where he is attending the U.S.-European Union summit. The Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the completion of more than 1,200 acres of shallow water habitat for the river's endangered pallid sturgeon. The agencies' work ensures "that the river can remain an affordable avenue of commerce while meeting the habitat needs of the river's many species," Bush said. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/25/04

Corps of Engineers completes Missouri River work on habitat for endangered palllid sturgeon
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered the corps more than three years ago to elevate flows in the spring and reduce summer water levels to protect habitat and encourage spawning and nesting. A federal judge ruled Monday that the Missouri River can operate without changes sought by environmentalists to save endangered fish and birds. The 2,341-mile-long river flows from Montana through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri to St. Louis, where it empties into the Mississippi River. AP/Inforum_ 6/25/04

Environmentalists lose Missouri River case
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in favor of the Army Corps of Engineers on all counts. It is a 14-year battle between conservationists, who along with the fishing and recreation industry in Montana and the Dakotas want a more seasonal ebb-and-flow, and downstream farming and shipping interests, who argue spring rises and low summer flows would forever halt barge shipping and cause flooding. The corps said the ruling shows the agency has balanced all the demands on Missouri River water.  AP/Seattle Post Intelligencer_ 6/22/04

May, 2004

E-mail insults heat up court fight over Missouri River
Mocking Missouri’s worries about running low on water, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist referred in an e-mail last year to "chicken little stories ... emanating from the great state of Misery." Missouri is citing e-mails and letters to try to win a court case with the federal government over how much water should be sent downriver from reservoirs in the Dakotas and Montana.  KRT/Columbia Daily Tribune_ 5/17/04


Sioux Falls, South Dakota seeks cost information on smaller alternative to the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System in case federal funding falls through for the three-state project
The Lewis & Clark project would pipe treated water from the Missouri River to 200,000 people in southeast South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. But a shortfall in those dollars led Sioux Falls officials to start considering other options, said public works director Lyle Johnson. This week the city council authorized spending $50,000 to hire a consultant to study a raw-water pipeline from the Missouri River to Sioux Falls. AP/Aberdeen News_ 5/7/04

Work to begin on $30 million pipeline bringing Missouri River water to South Dakota
Perkins County, South Dakota will receive clean water from Dickinson's Southwest Water Authority. Perkins County's shallow wells have a high mineral content and don't meet Environmental Protection Agency standards, said Paul Adcock, manager of the Perkins County Rural Water System. AP/Aberdeen News_ 5/2/04

April, 2004

Montana senator blasts Corps of Engineers for plan to further decrease record-low Fort Peck Lake to aid downstream fish spawning
Sen Conrad Burns said the plan threatens to harm the fragile balance of competing water users, ‘‘and it's just not right.'' AP/Independent Record_ 4/24/04

U.S. Supreme Court won't intervene in Missouri River fight
The Supreme Court refused to clarify when the government can order water shifting on the river to preserve fishing and recreation. The Bush administration has faced multiple lawsuits over its management of the 2,400-mile river, which runs through seven states from Montana to Missouri. The suits stem from the government's response to a prolonged drought. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/19/04

Federal judge dismisses North Dakota lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers over Missouri River
The state argued that the corps' management of the Missouri violated North Dakota's water quality standards, putting its sport fishing industry in jeopardy. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who is handling several lawsuits filed over Missouri River management, ruled that the corps must operate the river to control flooding and maintain downstream navigation. He said North Dakota was trying to put its interests above the interests of other states in the basin. AP/Bismark Tribune_ 4/17/04

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signals it will not stand in the way of barge shipping this summer on the Missouri River
The development is important because the service - and the courts - are all that stand between the Army Corps of Engineers and its plan to keep the river at consistent depths, rather than creating a seasonal spring rise and low summer flow to benefit endangered species. AP/Kansas City Star 4/2/04

March, 2004
Corp adjusts Missouri River plans
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday it is altering its release schedule during April to conserve additional water in the three largest Missouri River reservoirs because
the navigation industry has indicated that it will not be using the upper reaches of the river when the season opens April 1. High Plains Journal 3/27/04

South Dakota lawmakers send letter to Bush on Missouri River
Gov. Mike Rounds and Sens. Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle are asking President Bush to get involved in a dispute over management of the Missouri River. In a letter to the president on Friday, the lawmakers said a recommendation should be followed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore a more natural flow to the river. AP/Kansas City Star 3/26/04

Corps of Engineers press release on Missouri River plan

Corps releases Record of Decision, new Missouri River Master Manual and final 2004 Annual Operating Plan 3/19/04

New Missouri River plan allows flow for summer barge traffic
The Army Corps of Engineers on Friday finalized a new plan for operating the Missouri River that would keep water upstream during drought and allow barge shipping instead of creating an ebb and flow to protect dwindling fish and bird populations.
The new guidebook was denounced by conservation groups and derided by interests up and down the river, and even the corps acknowledged the 14-year battle will continue. AP/Kansas City Star 3/19/04

Montana governor dismisses Corps' Missouri River plan as ineffective
Gov. Judy Martz told U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives that changing the minimum water storage level at which water will no longer be released for downstream barge traffic won't help conditions at Fort Peck Lake in northeast Montana. AP/Billings Gazette 3/18/04
After 14 years of struggles, Corps is scheduled to adopt a disputed new Missouri River management plan that shifts water upstream in severe drought and delays environmentally friendly flow changes
Army officials planned a ceremony in Omaha, Neb., today with cake and refreshments for the signing of documents formally adopting a new Missouri River Master Water Control Manual, a guidebook that will govern the operation of dams and water allocation along the 2,341-mile river. St. Louis Post-Dispatch/KRT/Mississippi Sun-Herald 3/18/04

Barge operators reluctant to commit to using Missouri River this season
Uncertainty about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will maintain water levels on the Missouri River has barge operators leery of using the waterway this year. AP/Kansas City Star 3/17/04

New Corps of Engineers head listens to North Dakota drought problems: He gets an earful
There are three things the corps cannot do,  John P. Woodley said. Make it rain or stop raining, ignore federal law and make people in the Missouri River basin happy. Minot Daily News 3/16/04

Corps: Missouri River runoff will be down again
Missouri River basin runoff will be below normal again this year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Water stored in the Missouri River reservoirs is almost 19 million acre-feet below normal, the agency said. AP/Aberdeen News 3/13/04

Montana AG seeks high court ruling on Missouri River feud
Attorney General Mike McGrath wants the U.S. Supreme Court to help settle the ongoing dispute over managing the Missouri River. McGrath filed a "friend of the court" brief Wednesday, asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought by North Dakota and South Dakota. Billings Gazette 3/11/04

Corps Missouri River plan will likely lead to more lawsuits
The Army Corps of Engineers signaled Wednesday that it will allow barge shipping on the Missouri River this summer, prompting conservation groups to promise another round of lawsuits. AP/Billings Gazette 3/10/04

February, 2004

Revised Missouri River plan stirs all parties
The Army Corps of Engineers' proposed new plan to manage the Missouri River, is sparking howls of protest and immediate threats of lawsuits up and down America's longest waterway. Despite numerous calls for an overhaul, the long-awaited corps proposal — 15 years in the making — leaves distribution of the river's flows largely unchanged. Chicago Tribune 2/28/04

Huge Missouri River reconstruction plan unveiled
In what may become one of the largest federally funded habitat construction programs in the country's history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled a 30-year, $1.3 billion plan to restore the Missouri River. Reuters 2/27/04

Missouri River operating plan due out within the week. First update in 12 years will balance upstream and downstream interests and emphasize water conservation, says Corps of Engineers general. AP/Aberdeen News 2/24/04

Corps of Engineers expects below-normal runoff for the Missouri River system again this year. AP/Aberdeen News 2/12/04

Most states along the Missouri River can agree on water flows, says South Dakota official. But one state, Missouri, won't compromise. Yankton Daily Press 2/8/04

The 60-year-old Garrison Diversion plan to bring Missouri River water to North Dakota's Red River Valley still can work, says the new chair of the Lake Agassiz Water Authority. Cooperation is the key.  AP/Bismasrk Tribune 2/6/04

Missouri River restoration a top priority of President Bush's 2005 budget. Nation's longest river is caught in a battle between upstream and downstream interests. Post-Dispatch 2/3/04

American Rivers says Corps of Engineers' new budget for the Missouri River gives a false sense of hope.  Progressive Newswire 2/3/04

 

January, 2004

Two Nebraska utilities say lower Missouri River levels during the summer could mean blackouts and increased consumer power costs. Environmentalists accuse utilities of "scare tactics." AP/Rapid City Journal 1/24/04

Uncertain water levels on the Missouri River shut down two barge companies. Upstream reservoirs oppose releasing more water in summer. St. Louis Post Dispatch 1/15/04

December, 2003

North and South Dakota ask U.S. Supreme Court to hear Missouri River dispute. State of Missouri plans to oppose request. AP/Aberdeen News 12/30/03

American Rivers and other conservation groups urge peer review of Missouri River flow levels decision. Press Release 12/20/03
Ruling on Missouri River levels likely will prolong court cases. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/20/03

In a surprising setback to farmers and barge shippers along the lower Missouri River, federal scientists confirm need for lower flows. Full impact of decision not immediately clear. AP/San Francisco Chronicle 12/18/03

Mitchell South Dakota adds Missouri River to its water sources. AP Wire 12/17/03

Missouri River hits record lows at Kansas City. Utility officials said they don't expect problems with water intakes.  AP/St. Louis Post Dispatch 12/16/03

Iowa congressman says he'll introduce a bill to give Congress, not the courts, authority to tell the Corps of Engineers how to manage the Missouri River. Congressman opposes adjusting river levels to aid upstream states.  Daily Nonpareil 12/15/03

November, 2003

Interior Department investigation to find out why Bush administration removed scientists from Missouri River study.  AP/Aberdeen News 11/21/03

Corps of Engineers releases latest biological review of Missouri River. Upstream lawmakers say it favors downstream interests.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/17/03

Corps press release 11/17/03

Corps fact sheet 11/17/03

Conservation groups label Corps' Missouri River assessment dead on arrival.  Press Release 11/17/03

Corps or Engineers reports low October upper Missouri River runoff dropped the water level in the six main stem reservoirs to a record low.  AP/Aberdeen News 11/16/03

South Dakota's congressional delegation has asked for a meeting with the secretaries of Interior and the Army to discuss Missouri River plan. Lawmakers concerned that scientists were removed from the project.  The Plainsman 11/14/03

U.S. Senators from North and South Dakota and Montana seek investigation of decision to replace scientists on Missouri River project.  AP/Aberdeen News 11/11/03

Study by a supporter of the barge industry claims birds along Missouri River thriving.  AP/Kansas City Star 11/11/03

South Dakota governor and others talk to Corps of Engineers about Missouri River plan. No agreement yet.  AP/Aberdeen News 11/7/03

North Dakota attorney general demands explanation for Bush administration removal of scientists from Missouri River study.  Change feared to favor barge industry.  AP/Aberdeen News 11/7/03

Missouri River scientists yanked off project. Move may block changes in river flows.  AP/Newsday 11/5/03

Bush administration removes seasoned Missouri River scientists from river study, say environmental groups.

PDF of Bush administration's memo.  U.S. Newswire 11/5/03

October, 2003

Debate over Corps of Engineers plan for the Missouri River moves to Omaha. It's still upstream vs. down.  High Plains Journal 10/30/03

North and South Dakota urge Corps of Engineers to back upper Missouri River reservoirs and sport fishing over barges.  AP/Jefferson City News Tribune 10/29/03

Environmental groups blast Corps of Engineers' 2004 Missouri River plan.  Press Release/U.S. Newswire 10/29/03

Analysis: Tribes along the Missouri River worry about their water rights. Corps of Engineers' reservoir manual comes under fire.  Indian Country Today 10/28/03

Corps. of Engineers: 2004 Missouri River barge season could be 30 days shorter.  AP/Aberdeen News 10/21/03

Army Corps of Engineers continues to push for the elimination of spring rises and low summer flows on the Missouri River, but it also is still looking for alternative ways to protect endangered species.  DTN/High Plains Journal 10/21/03

September runoff into the Missouri River: Corps says runoff above Sioux City was the fourth lowest in the 106 years records have been kept. KSFY 10/13/03 

Missouri River barge study traces decline of shipments. AP/Aberdeen News

Editorial: Missouri compromise possible. "Reasonable people" the key, says Iowa governor.  Great Falls Tribune

South Dakota governor says he's willing to consider barge industry needs for the Missouri River. In turn, downstream interests need to include upstream concerns in river management.  The Black Hills Pioneer

Missouri River governors long way from agreement on managing water flows. Do agree on system for working on the issues.  AP/Independent Record

Sioux City, Iowa turned down for participation in Missouri River summit. Iowa governor not adequate representative, mayor says.  Sioux City Journal
Conservation groups say Missouri River proposal looks like 'a step backward.'  U.S. Newswire

Eight-state Missouri River conferece opens. Upstream vs. downstream. South Dakota governor looks for new approach. AP/Lawrence Journal-World

Opinion: Restore the Missouri River. Izaack Walton League executive says governors' meeting is a fine place to start.  Kansas City Star

Editorial: River talks key to saving fish, industry.

   Billings Gazette

South Dakota governor hopeful eight states will make real progress tomorrow on upstream and downstream uses of the Missouri River.  AP/Aberdeen News

Missouri River: Experts from around the country--and around all viewpoints--debate in North Dakota. What is the best plan for Missouri River water?  Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota governor takes Corps. of Engineers on helicopter tour of Missouri River water issues. Lake Oahe now starts in South Dakota.  Minot Daily News

Missouri governor asks state attorney general and chief of water resources to represent state at Missouri River water conference.

Madison, South Dakota cancels its request for extra water through the Louis & Clark pipeline. Says it can't wait that long. Will drill wells instead.  Rapid City Journal

Mississippi River barge grain traffic down. USDA cites low rainfall and reduced flows of the Missouri River.  AgWeb

Seven Mississippi River governors, including Missouri's, urge President Bush to avoid a Missouri River management plan that hurts downstream economy.  News Tribune

U.S. Senate water bill includes $73 million for North Dakota water projects.  AP/Bismarck Tribune

South Dakota Senators secure another $5 million for plains water project. Total now $25.2 million and project 70% finished.  AP/Aberdeen News

Public meetings set for October on Missouri River annual operating plan.  Daily Nonpareil

Iowa Farm Bureau leaders tell Corps of Engineers of Missouri River concerns.

North Dakota counties look at unified planning along the Missouri River.  Bismarck Tribune

Missouri River reservoir levels hit record low. Corps of Engineers says drops will continue this month.  AP/Aberdeen News    

Missouri River flow report: Highest so far this summer at Sioux City but levels still down. Barge companies blast court ruling.  Des Moines Register

Correction: Corn Missouri story  AP/Aberdeen News

Missouri River flows affect South Dakota corn shipping, says trade group. Sioux City Journal

Corps of Engineers increases Missouri River water releases to aid barge traffic. AP/Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan

Newspaper: States should wrest control of the Missouri River away from the Army Corps of Engineers. Missoulian

Sacred Water: Camp for Montana children on Native American reservations teaches the streams and creeks that make up the Missouri River Basin. Billings Gazette

Four states commit to Missouri River summit.  AP/Aberdeen News

Seven Missouri River states invited to meet Sept. 24 to discuss water allocation. Up stream states say too much water  leaving. Downstream states contend they don't get enough. AP/Rapid City Journal

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers defends plans to release water from Kansas reservoirs despite objections from the governor. AP/Lawrence Journal-World

Army Corps of Engineers to release water from drought-stricken Kansas reservoirs. Flows into Missouri River will support barge traffic. Kansas governor hopes for a different approach. AP/Aberdeen News

Missouri River basin tribes may seek Congressional aid to assert water rights. Flood control and power uses wrecking havoc on cultural and sacred burial sites, leaders say. Indian Country

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