Residents question Lake Sakakawea planThe Army Corps of Engineers received comments from 50 people about a plan that would allow the Corps to charge users for taking water out of Lake Sakakawea.
The Army Corps of Engineers received comments from 50 people about a plan that would allow the Corps to charge users for taking water out of Lake Sakakawea.
“Even though the comment period ended Tuesday, we expect to get a few more by the end of the week,” Corps Project Manager Larry Janis said Wednesday.
Many state officials, including the governor, oppose the plan as was made apparent at a meeting held Jan. 6 in Bismarck.
The plan will allow the Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District to enter into surplus water agreements to meet regional water needs until a permanent reallocation study is completed.
Janis said some of the comments and questions the Corps has received were:
r The Corps needs to take natural flows into account.
r Why is the Corps charging for storage when some have already greatly sacrificed for the Garrison Dam?
r If charging is assessed why are they only doing it here and not downstream?
r How accurate is the accounting of depletions (storage)?
r The Corps’s proposal may conflict with tribal water rights.
r Does the proposal coincide with the National Environmental Policy Act?
McKenzie County Commissioner Rick Lawler said that what the Corps is trying to do is unfair.
“I hope it doesn’t happen,” Lawler said. “That water belongs to the people. Landowners, not only in McKenzie County but all over, have snow on their land that will melt and run into Lake Sakakawea. Should they charge the Corps for it?”
Gov. Jack Dalrymple told The Press Wednesday that he spoke against the proposal at a public hearing recently.
“I let them have it,” Dalrymple said. “Charging for water that is rightfully ours is an outrage and we are going to fight this.”
The Corps cites the 1944 Flood Control Act as its authority, saying the secretary of war is authorized to make surplus water agreements with states, municipalities, private concerns or individuals at prices and on terms as he may deem reasonable.
Corps officials are acting on this matter more than 60 years later because they have been directed by headquarters to be in compliance with the act, according to a previous press article.
Southwest Water Authority CEO Mary Massad said she also hopes the Corps plan does not come to fruition.
“Hopefully this plan will not affect us, but I want assurances from the Corps that that is the case,” she said. “It is my understanding that we were told that we are exempt.”
Massad said if for some reason that is not the case then the cost of water will go up for everyone.
“The next step is to review the comments and decide if we need to make changes to the document, we will then finalize it and send it to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy,” Janis said.
Janis said Darcy will review the document and make the final decision.
“We expect to have the final decision by the end of the month,” Janis said.