Pierre, S.D. — Eight governors have signed a resolution asking the Army Corps of Engineers to do what it can feasibly and legally to conserve water in the Missouri River reservoirs.
The resolution follows a Missouri River Summit convened by South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds in February. He proposed changing the barge navigation season below Sioux City, Iowa to save water in the largest and northernmost reservoirs, which are 20 feet to 30 feet below normal elevation because of several years of drought and below-normal runoff from mountain snowmelt.
Unable to agree on Rounds' proposal, governors or their representatives agreed to draft a resolution calling for water conservation.
Governors of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri signed the resolution.
State officials realize minimal water is flowing into the Missouri River from Montana, said Mark Johnston, Rounds' chief of staff.
"Everyone finally came together to agree this is an issue that needs to come to the attention of the Corps of Engineers," said Johnston.
The resolution lends support for the corps to receive full funding in its efforts to address fish and wildlife recovery, improving water infrastructure and water conservation.
This year's navigation season will be cut by 61 days, the shortest season since the river's reservoir system was built in 1967, said Paul Johnston, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman in Omaha, Neb.
The corps' predicted annual runoff at 16.5 million acre-feet of water this year is about two-thirds of normal.
"Everybody is sharing in the difficulty caused by drought," the corps' Paul Johnston said. "All eight governors (are) recognizing this is a shared problem and supporting legislation that could be a benefit to fish and wildlife in the entire length of the river."