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Health, Science, Environment

Corps to study long-term uses of Missouri River water, hold public meetings

(Flickr/Brian Hillegas)

Updated Tuesday, Aug. 21, to add comments from South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Originally posted Aug. 20.

What does an oil and gas boom in North Dakota have to do with Missouri River reservoirs?

Hydrofracturing – the process that gets new wells up and running – takes lots of water.

Environmental resource specialist Eric Laux of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, says the Corps will meet those needs with temporary, 5-to-10 year water contracts for "surplus water" from the reservoirs.

The Corps is proposing to require similar contracts of other municipal and industrial water users. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has criticized that idea, saying charging for reservoir water would unfairly target upper basin users - like those in North and South Dakota, where the reservoirs are located - and benefit those in the lower basin states - like Missouri.

"The Corps is now proposing to exceed its congressional authority and charge South Dakotans for what has long been recognized as our own water," Jackley said in a press release. "Should the Corps continue to disregard the state’s legal water rights, as Attorney General I will be placed in the position of seeking court intervention to protect South Dakota’s interests."

Eric Laux says in the long-term, the Corps needs to figure out how to meet municipal and industrial (M&I) water demands without compromising other uses – like flood control and navigation.

He says the Corps is launching a study: "It’s taking a look, basin-wide, at the ability to provide for M&I water supply storage in the system if that’s possible without affecting other authorized purposes,” Laux said.

And he says the Corps wants input from stakeholders.

“If they have concerns that they’re a current user and what does the future hold for them, we can talk with them about that, and about what the reallocation study might mean to them," Laux said.

The comment period on the Corps' draft surplus water reports and reallocation study runs from Aug. 6 through Sept. 7.

You can learn more by attending a public meeting:

Aug. 20 - Nebraska City, Neb.: Lied Lodge and Conference Center, 2700 Sylvan Road.
Aug. 21 - St. Joseph, Mo.: Stoney Creek Inn and Conference Center, 1201 North Woodbine Road.
Aug. 22 - St. Louis, Mo: Marriott West, 660 Maryville Centre Drive.
Aug. 23 - Sioux City, Iowa: Holiday Inn, 701 Gordon Drive.
Aug. 27 - Pierre, S.D.: Best Western Ramkota, 920 W. Sioux Avenue.
Aug. 28 - Bismarck, N.D.: Best Western Doublewood Inn and Conference Center, 1400 E. Interchange Avenue.
Aug. 29 - Glasgow, Mont.: Fort Peck Visitor Center.

All meetings run from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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