U.S. Water News Online
PIERRE, S.D. -- The issue of managing the Missouri River
may well end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, says Gov. Bill Janklow.
Legal options are being discussed in light of the 8th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals' recent decision to block federal judges' orders on
how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the river in South
Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska, Janklow told reporters.
It will be several days before those decisions are made, he said.
The appellate ruling means the corps no longer is under any court
order restricting its operation of the river in the three states,
said Charlie McGuigan, an assistant South Dakota attorney general. A
federal judge's order in Montana may still be in effect, he said.
Corps spokesman Paul Johnston said the agency already was working
with South Dakota officials to release more water from Lake Oahe to
raise levels in the three reservoirs below Oahe. Some boat docks and
marinas had become nearly unusable because water had to be taken from
Lakes Sharpe, Francis Case and Lewis and Clark during the legal
State officials now want water in the three reservoirs to support
fishing and boating over the Memorial Day weekend, Johnston said.
The corps also has received some good news from Montana, Johnston
said. Warm weather has increased the Rocky Mountain snow melt, so
more water is flowing into the Missouri River, he said.
State officials said the legal battle had accomplished most of
South Dakota's short-term goals by preventing the corps from lowering
the water in Lake Oahe during the fish spawning season. The court
order protected eggs laid in shallow water in Lake Oahe by smelt and
Smelt are a key food source for walleyes and other game fish.
Gov. Janklow noted that South Dakota accomplished much of what it
hoped for when it initially requested a stable water level on Lake
Oahe until May 22. He said about 50 percent of the smelt hatch on the
lake may have survived, and each day of sufficient water improved the
walleye hatch, too.
``Every day it was worth its weight in gold to us ... in the
survivability of our game,'' Janklow said.
But the survival of the fish hatch on Lake Francis Case,
downstream from Oahe, was only about 10 percent because the corps
drew that reservoir's water down so quickly, he said.
``It's good news and bad news,'' Janklow said.
The corps has argued it is trying to manage the river as best it
can after three years of drought, but Janklow said the agency
continues to manage the river for the downstream barge industry
between Sioux City, Iowa, and St. Louis. He added that only five
barges a day have been on that 250-mile stretch recently.
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