Like so many other South Dakotans, I have yet to mark the first anniversary of the end of the Great Missouri River floods of 2011, and I still find myself paying bills I incurred during this period of time. As we evacuated to shelters, were forced to find other places for our families to live, saw our fields flooded, crops destroyed, and watched our homes submerged in water for the sake of Missouri river management by the Army Corps of Engineers, we all recall those were troubling times. But we came through that man-made disaster with the resiliency that we’re known for in the Midwest, with the hope that we can solve our problems, and make for a better future.
What is the Obama administration’s answer to the problem? While our state is under drought it wants to charge farmers for easements to water.
A year later, it seems that under the Obama administration the Army Corps of Engineers is adding insult to injury with their draft planning documents where they propose to institute a storage fee system by designating some water impounded in Missouri River reservoirs as “surplus,” forcing municipal and industrial users to enter into purchase contracts for water drawn from the river. They are so bold that a year after they force water on us, they want to charge us for it?
The relationship between states and the Army Corps of Engineers has always been contentious at best. They built these dams for control of the river’s ebb and flow, as well as to generate hydroelectric power. In the process of this, millions of acres of some of South Dakota’s best farmland were flooded, and towns slipped beneath lakes. Yet here we are fifty years later, and as recently pointed out by South Dakota US Senator John Thune, states have not been compensated fully for the loss of land following the construction of the main stem dams.
It was bad enough that they won’t honor their obligations for building the dams. But in the past two years, we’re hit with the twin punches of flooding us out in the name of water management, and proposing that they need to start charging cities, tribes and rural water systems millions for the water they are allegedly “storing for us.” Cities will potentially pass these costs onto consumers in the form of higher taxes and fees. Tribes will find their budgets stretched to just provide water to some of the poorest counties in the nation. Farmers who depend on rural water systems would see their costs skyrocket to the point that the old well with the funny tasting rusty water makes better sense.
One year ago, our families were still evacuated from our home due to the Corps’ mismanagement of the river. Now, we’re faced with millions more in costs because they want to hoard it. This administration gave us the water in the form of floods, and now they want to take it away in the form of exorbitant fees for the same water
Obama and company need to go.
Our farmers and families deserve better than this.