South Dakota pulls plug on Missouri River meetings

 

Blaming a bureaucratic process that has dragged on for too long without progress, South Dakota officials have withdrawn their state from the Missouri River Basin Association.

Nettie Myers, secretary of the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said, "It seems like we have the same meetings over and over, and nothing is accomplished."

The Missouri River Basin Association was founded in 1981 by eight Missouri River state governors. Their aim was to bring river states together to settle disputes without resorting to litigation or congressional battles.

The river basin's upper and lower regions have long disagreed, with the lower basin wanting the river controlled for barging and the upper basin wanting water left in reservoirs for recreation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the river and its dams, has always said navigation comes first.

According to Richard Opper, executive director of the Missouri River Basin Association, the organization is making headway as it attempts to bring the basin's interest groups - including Indian tribes whose land was flooded by dams - and states together. Opper said a recent goal of the association has been to identify areas of agreement in states along the river. While he sympathized with South Dakota's impatience, Opper said, the state's pullout "is squandering an opportunity."

Six years ago, when the Corps of Engineers reviewed its management of Missouri River dams, reformers were hopeful. Since then, numerous public meetings have been held, and many studies and reports issued. Yet the Corps' management remains unchanged.

Last June, the Corps announced it intended to delay a final decision on proposing management revisions for at least two more years. Myers and others concerned about protecting water levels in the Missouri's upper-basin reservoirs accused the Corps of delaying its decision to placate political interests in the lower basin. The lower basin is generally happy with the Corps' emphasis on barging and prefers that the agency operate the river as it has for the past 30 years.

For Myers and her boss, South Dakota Gov. William Janklow, the two-year delay was the final insult. "Justice delayed is justice denied," said Myers. "I think what the Corps is doing is unconscionable."

Myers charged that the Corps does not sit at the bargaining table as an equal partner with Missouri River states. "The Corps operates independently," she said. "They are not accountable."

"The Corps," countered Richard Opper, "will listen to the states if we can agree on the issues."

Peter Carrels reports from Aberdeen, South Dakota.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COLORADO WILD PUBLIC LANDS VIDEO CONTEST
    Please submit your video of 30 seconds or less, taken on public lands, to [email protected] by May 15th for a chance to win in one...
  • WMAN NETWORK COORDINATOR
    WESTERN MINING ACTION NETWORK (WMAN) CONTRACT OPPORTUNITY CLOSING DATE: Feb. 19, 2021 WMAN is seeking a team member to coordinate the various network activities to...
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING TRAIL AMBASSADORS FOR THE SUMMER OF 2021
    Friends of the Inyo's Trail Ambassadors (TAs) support the Inyo, Sierra, & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests and other partners by providing positive public service, outreach, interpretation,...
  • LAND & CABIN ON CO/ UT LINE
    18 ac w/small solar ready cabin. Off grid, no well. Great RV location. Surrounded by state wildlife area and nat'l parks.
  • MANAGER PERMACULTURE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
    Permaculture / Landscape Company Manager / Site Lead Red Ant Works, Inc. - 20+ year landscape construction and horticultural care company seeks manager and site...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is looking for a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help grow our membership and presence in the Four...
  • ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    San Juan Citizens Alliance seeks an Energy and Climate Program Associate to focus on public outreach, education and organizing to advance campaigns to mitigate climate...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    This position provides professional real estate services and is responsible for managing and completing real estate projects utilizing a project management database that is designed...
  • WILDFIRE MITIGATION SPECIALIST
    The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist is responsible for delivering wildfire risk mitigation information, recommendations and programmatic resources to wildland urban interface homeowners, community members and partners....
  • DEVELOPMENT POSITIONS
    Thorne Nature Experience is hiring for a Development Director and Senior Individual Giving Manager. Individuals will work collaboratively with Thorne's Executive Director to develop and...
  • SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION & ENERGY
    The National Parks Conservation Association, a 100-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization and the nation's leading voice for national parks seeks a Senior Program Manager, Landscape Conservation...
  • BACKCOUNTRY AND FRONTCOUNTRY STEWARDSHIP CREW MEMBERS
    The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) is hiring a crew of ambassadors to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to educate visitors on...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATURAL HISTORY INSTITUTE
    The Executive Director is the chief executive officer of the Natural History Institute (NHI). The Executive Director has broad authority to lead and manage the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    - The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region - The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful,...
  • SENIOR DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE
    Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a Senior Development Associate to coordinate the organization's individual giving program. The position description is available at http://greateryellowstone.org/careers Please email a...
  • TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISORS
    SEEKING TALENTED TRAIL CREWLEADERS The Pacific Crest Trail Association, headquartered in Sacramento, California ,is dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the Pacific Crest National Scenic...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Native plant seeds for the Western US. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers and regional mixes. Call or email for free price list. 719-942-3935. [email protected] or visit...
  • THE LAND DESK: A PUBLIC LANDS NEWSLETTER
    Western lands and communities--in context--delivered to your inbox 3x/week. From award-winning journalist and HCN contributor Jonathan P. Thompson. $6/month; $60/year.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.