Hoeven, delegation upset with corps' plans for Lake Sakakawea

2010-05-19T22:30:00Z Hoeven, delegation upset with corps' plans for Lake SakakaweaTribune staff reports Bismarck Tribune
May 19, 2010 10:30 pm  • 

WASHINGTON — North Dakota’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Hoeven are trying to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cancel plans to put a hold on new Lake Sakakawea water permits.

The corps is proposing a long-term water allocation study that could take at least three years and possibly seven years to complete. During that time, the corps has said, no new lake water intake permits will be issued and existing permits will not be changed for higher capacity.

Hoeven said Wednesday the corps should continue its longstanding policy of issuing access easements on the mainstem reservoirs in North Dakota, even at the same time as the proposed water allocation study of the Missouri River.

Corps officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Hoeven pressed the case in a phone call with Omaha District Commander Col. Robert J. Ruch and in a letter to the corps’ assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, at corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Lake Sakakawea water is important to shale fracturing techniques used in North Dakota oil fields. It also provides water to surrounding communities.

A permit freeze is “simply unacceptable,” Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Rep. Earl Pomeroy said in a joint statement.

“The decision by the corps to not issue permits while they are doing this study puts North Dakota’s energy development and production, as well as some of the drinking water distribution projects we’ve funded, in jeopardy of long delays,” the delegation statement said.

“The amounts of water at issue are miniscule,” the delegation said in the letter to Darcy. “High-end estimates are that full development of the state’s oil fields would require 1,800 new wells drilled per year, at a total of 4 million gallons of water each.” This totals about 60 acre-feet of water per day, compared to the approximately 40,000 acre-feet of Missouri River water that passes through Bismarck-Mandan each day. More realistic estimates indicate that the wells would require closer to 30 acre-feet per day.

The delegation said energy development is not the only thing at risk.

“We have also been told that a requested intake from Lake Oahe for the South Central Regional Water system may not be permitted, and the same could apply to the Southwest Water Authority and Northwest Area Water Supply project,” the delegation said.

“I am concerned that important water projects throughout North Dakota could be delayed or stopped during this period,” Hoeven said in his letter to Darcy. “Clearly, such a step would have an adverse effect on North Dakota’s rural and municipal water supplies, as well as on industrial uses such as oil recovery activities.”

The governor said the corps’ plan also includes a provision to charge the state a fee for water storage and consumption.

“Bear in mind that water from the Missouri River, the Yellowstone River and their tributaries are a public trust, owned by the state of North Dakota for the people of North Dakota,” Hoeven wrote.

“The corps, by compelling such a fee, would force the state to access water from the rivers rather than from the reservoirs. That makes no sense and you should reject any such fee.”

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(7) Comments

  1. BabyT
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    BabyT - May 20, 2010 3:05 pm
    Hmm, lets see here.. Federal government has so much debt they have long ago lost track... Most states are deep into the red zone. Whats that? North Dakota has money? Lets CHARGE them for storing the water they technically have authority over anyway, and then either just keep the money (feds/corp), or maybe we will let downstream states get paid for having accept that ND water when it goes downstream. Win/Win for everyone!

  2. Marvin51
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    Marvin51 - May 20, 2010 9:09 am
    Maybe we need to study the Federal Government, during the study the Federal Government will not be allowed to do anything.

    Seriously though, I've never seen an organization so in love of studies as the Corp of Engineers. We've got a crises in Devils Lake and they say we'll do a study, we'll get back to you in a couple of years and that's supposed to be some sort of fix. Thing is there have been lots and lots of studies already.

    Same with the Missouri River, it's studied to death. Now let's have another study and have people just put everything on hold while we study. Forget that. One should operate on the best information one has. One shouldn't stop operating while one does another, and another study.

    As for the charge, I guess as long as the downstream interests are charge the same rate gallon by gallon we could live with it. That would absolutely end the barge industry unless the charge was so low ND could pay it's share with a $20 bill.
  3. NDresident
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    NDresident - May 20, 2010 8:55 am
    Maybe the state should look into placing dams on the numerous rivers that flow into the Missouri river within ND and create smaller resevoirs along the Missouri...we could have numerous lakes that we as a state could control and use them however we want...recreation, fishing, drinking water, oil, etc...
  4. citizenconcerned
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    citizenconcerned - May 20, 2010 8:09 am
    I would like to trace this back to see what politician was pressing for it in the beginning. I would be that it is somebody that the Upper or Lower Mississippi Barge association has in there back pocket. Most people dont realize that the Barge association is "OLD" money and that they have a ton of political figures in their pocket. Many o congressman has been elected with money from the Barge Association. The problem is that it is a no longer needed industry. Trucks can do the same job now without causing so many problems with the river systems. But yet it still happens. The Barge Association is usually at the root of our problems with the corps. The whole system needs an overhaul. Let the Barge industry work around the low water. When the water is to low, use trucks.
  5. Just Curious
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    Just Curious - May 20, 2010 6:36 am
    Charging the State or cities for water storage on sovereign ND lands that were taken from the state to provide flood control for downstream states?

    What the he!! is going on in Washington?

    This study is nothing more than another behind the doors push by the state of Misery to establish control over the river. I think the state of Misery needs to be charged a fee for water released to float barges.
  6. tub3rcul0s1s
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    tub3rcul0s1s - May 20, 2010 1:57 am
    this makes me really wonder if the bilderberg group and the council on foreign relations pulled some strings with their army buddies to stifle our economic prosperity so that we have to accept IMF loans to invest in wind power

    well not really but kinda
  7. Max Bet
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    Max Bet - May 20, 2010 1:26 am
    This is a good idea by the Corp especially with the accident in the Gulf. There is no plan in case of an accident if something goes wrong with the Oil drilling under the Lake. The other issue for Fort Berthold is the Minerals or Oil under the Lake were given to the Tribe but the rightful owners were never compensated for these minerals so the oil rightfully belongs to the original landowners heirs. The Tribe has leased these minerals to Oil companies but they do not rightfully own these minerals. This will give the rightful owners the chance to bring this issue to a court. The minerals belong to the original owners of the land under the Lake. The Tribe should have negotiated with an Oil company to get the Oil and split the cost to get the Oil and received 50% of the profits. The people would have possibly agreed to this but if the Tribe is unwilling to share it should go back to the rightful owners.
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