U.S. Water News Online
BISMARCK, N.D. -- Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., says he wants
to rewrite the rules on how the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of
Reclamation handle emergency water shortages.
Dorgan, who is the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Water
Appropriations Subcommittee chaired a meeting with officials and
residents of Missouri River communities worried about running out of
"The fear and concern ... is alive and well," said Jesse Taken
Alive, a Standing Rock reservation resident.
People living in Fort Yates, on the Standing Rock reservation,
were without water for several days in 2003 when silt plugged the
city's water intake pipe. To the north, Parshall's intake has been
lowered to protect the city's water supply.
North Dakota's Lake Sakakawea has reached record low levels in
recent years because of prolonged drought in the Missouri River
basin. The corps has predicted more of the same this year.
The corps says Wakpala, S.D., is threatened with water problems
Dorgan said the corps has been hamstrung by rules that make it
difficult to step in and help with such things as extending water
intakes or drilling wells.
"I hope to add authorization language to the appropriations bill
this year," Dorgan said. "I want to give them the authority and some
funding so both the corps and the Bureau of Reclamation are willing
and able to participate in this fight."
Dorgan also said a drought emergency declaration could free up
federal money to help with emergency fixes to water systems.
Parshall auditor Loren Hoffman said his community is frightened by
corps predictions that it could lose its water source. Extending or
moving the intake would be too costly, Hoffman said.
"I hear that we'll squeak by, and I hope that's right," Hoffman
said. "The city of Parshall will never be able to fix this problem on
its own. We need help and we're asking for it today."
Corps spokesman Erik Belchinger said the biggest factor is
"And once again, that has to be requested," he said. "And we
haven't had a whole lot of takers. Fort Yates was the one that took
part in that particular effort."
Terry Fleck, a member of the Friends of Sakakawea group, asked why
the barge navigation season can't be shortened more than it has been.
Belchinger said the navigation season already has been shortened
considerably. "The definition of extraordinary to you might be
different than the definition of extraordinary to the lower basin
states," he told Fleck.
"Eight years of drought is extreme," Fleck said. "How many more
meetings do we have, before you people get 'extreme?"'
"We're at rock-bottom now, and are just hoping to see if anything
can be done," said Tolly Holtan, owner of the Indian Hills resort.
"We're on our sixth boat ramp. We've been chasing water for 10 years.
There's a mile between the store and the water now. We have no place
else to go after this year."
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