Archive for Saturday, January 8, 2005

S.D. governor urges conservation of Missouri River during drought

Low water levels could do severe damage, he warns

January 8, 2005


— South Dakota officials said Friday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should quickly begin additional conservation of Missouri River water to avoid severe consequences for both upstream and downstream states in 2006.

Should the existing drought continue, all commercial navigation in downstream states could be halted in 2006, they said. Power plants that need river water for cooling purposes also could be affected, and hydroelectric production at Missouri River dams would suffer, too.

They said failure to initiate more stringent conservation measures this year would also:

  • Increasingly harm the upstream recreation industry that depends on revenues from anglers and other boaters.
  • Threaten some drinking-water systems along the river.
  • Leave most farmers who have Missouri River irrigation permits high and dry.

Much of the Missouri River Basin is in the fifth or sixth year of drought, said South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds.

The governor, along with state Game, Fish and Parks Secretary John Cooper, and other state officials said Friday that the Corps' new Master Manual for operations of Missouri River dams would require a cutoff of all commercial navigation in 2006 if reservoir levels continued to drop.

Cooper said commercial shipping on the river would automatically be stopped if reservoir storage levels hit 31 million acre-feet of water.

That could happen in 2006 unless the drought ends or enhanced conservation measures are taken by the corps, he said.

"We frankly are running out of water," he said. "They need to do something different from the status quo, given the drought conditions that we're experiencing."

Storage in Missouri River reservoirs is at 35.1 million acre-feet.

Garland Erbele, chief engineer for the state water rights program, said the Corps of Engineers should provide navigation support only from Kansas City and downriver until May 1. He also suggested reduced navigation flows from May through September.

If the drought continues, the corps should forgo all navigation support in April, Eberle said.

Taking those measures could save nearly 2 million acre-feet of water and help stave off the 31 million acre-foot trigger that would eliminate all commercial shipping support on the Missouri River next year, he said.

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