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Letter: Corps makes right choice for issuing water permits

I understand how important energy development is to our state's economy as well as our country's energy independence. That's why when the U.S. Corps of Engineers froze issuing new Sakakawea water permits, I was determined to quickly reverse their decision.

Lake Sakakawea water is crucial to the further development of the oil industry in North Dakota since it is used in shale fracturing techniques. It also provides clean, safe and reliable drinking water to surrounding communities. These are major issues in our state, and the Corps decision to freeze issuing new and modifying existing lake water intake permits while conducting a longer-term water allocation study was simply unacceptable.

Following the Corps announcement, I immediately called Cmdr. Robert Ruch of the Omaha District of the Corps to tell him we needed to find a solution.

Sen. Kent Conrad, Congressman Earl Pomeroy and I also sent a joint letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. We insisted on finding a workable solution that would permit the issuance of the needed water permits.

I continued to push the issue along with the state's congressional delegation during a conference call with Secretary Darcy and other top officials with the Corps.

On that call, we were able to resolve the issue and secure a commitment from the Corps to continue processing water permit applications for Lake Sakakawea and Oahe.

I am pleased that the Corps has decided to make the common-sense choice and continue issuing permits while conducting a water allocation study.

Protecting our state's energy development and water distribution projects is a top priority, and I'm happy to see this issue resolved quickly and with our state's best interests in mind.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, Washington, D.C.