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Noem-Cramer Amendment Blocks Corps of Engineers from Charging for Missouri River Water

Jul 10, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced the U.S. House of Representatives accepted an amendment he cosponsored blocking the Army Corps of Engineers from charging Missouri River users for water. The amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 Energy and Water Development Bill, introduced by Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), specifies funds made available in the Act may not be used to establish a fee for surplus water from Missouri River reservoirs including Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe.

The construction of the Garrison Dam more than sixty years ago promised North Dakota citizens and tribal governments access to Missouri River water for municipal and industrial purposes, in exchange for 550,000 acres of land lost due to the newly created reservoir. This public ownership of Missouri River waters is confirmed in the North Dakota Constitution, the original 1944 Flood Control Act, the Garrison Diversion Unit Reformulation Act of 1986, and the Dakota Water Resources Act of 2000.

In May 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers began its most recent effort threatening to charge businesses, sovereign tribes, farmers, ranchers, and municipalities for access to Missouri River water. A previous attempt to charge for water made during the 1980s was unsuccessful. Despite clear laws and a growing need for water due to exceptional growth, the Corps continues to suggest it has rulemaking authority to establish and calculate a charge for surplus water.

“One wouldn’t think the Congress of the United States should have to pass amendments on appropriations bills to ensure the U.S. Constitution is upheld by the bureaucracy, or that long-held promises made by the federal government are kept. But that’s exactly what this amendment does,” said Cramer. “Not only will it ensure the Army Corps of Engineers no longer engages in charging the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, its citizens, and sovereign tribes along the Missouri River for water which is rightfully theirs, but it also frees up the Corps to engage in more productive activities.”

“Rural water systems, businesses and tribes up and down the Missouri River rely on the river for water and have been pulling water from the river for nearly 60 years without a fee,” said Noem. “The states of South and North Dakota, as well as Montana, sacrificed hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland during the creation of the dams along the Missouri. In doing so, however, they did not give up their right to water from the river. This amendment stops an overreach by the Corps in its attempt to charge constituents in our states what is legally theirs – water from the Missouri River.”

Final passage of the full Energy and Water bill is expected later Wednesday.