By John Hines
South Dakota elected officials spoke against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed surplus water storage plan at Monday’s public meeting in Pierre.
The proposed rule would reallocate storage in the Missouri River reservoirs for municipal and industrial use and would include a fee for that storage.
While no one at the meeting expressed opposition to making more water available from the reservoirs, Rep. Kristi Noem and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley spoke out against the Corps’s proposed storage fee. They said the Corps has no right to charge for access to water from the Missouri River.
Sen. John Thune, Sen. Tim Johnson and Gov. Dennis Daugaard were not at the meeting, but submitted statements opposing the storage fee.
Noem said she agrees with many South Dakotans who disapprove of how the Corps manages the Missouri River reservoirs.
“They can dump water on top of us and cause millions of dollars of damage, then the next year turn around and say they’re going to start charging us for water that has been part of the natural flow of the Missouri,” Noem said.
In his statement, Sen. Thune said South Dakota sacrificed valuable land for the creation of the reservoirs.
The federal government promised the use of those water resources and extensive development of irrigation in exchange, but most of those promises were never kept.
“Our state was promised the ability to use these water resources to meet our needs,” Thune said. “As a matter of fairness and equity, South Dakota and other impacted states should not be charged to utilize Missouri River water for municipal and industrial uses.”
Jackley said the Corps does not have congressional authority to charge for water storage.
“While it is neither just nor legal for the Corps to demand that we receive permission to use water that naturally flows through our state, it borders on insult to demand that we pay for it,” Jackley said.
Daugaard has asked the Corps to extend the public comment period an additional 30 days. The Corps is currently accepting public comment until Sept. 10.
Read more: http://www.capjournal.com/news/state-officials-oppose-water-storage-fee/article_3c03d92c-f0c8-11e1-9590-0019bb2963f4.html