A banner reading "Mni Wiconi" -- Water is Life -- at the former #NoDAPL encampment near the Missouri River in North Dakota. Photo: Joe Brusky

David Ganje: Army Corps can't be trusted to manage water in the Missouri River

Is the Missouri River a mere obstacle?

By David Ganje
Native Sun News Today Columnist

The 2018 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill passed the U. S. House of Representatives on July 27th. Among other matters the bill attempts to address the ongoing issue of the Army Corps of Engineers proposed ‘surplus waters’ regulation.

In a prior opinion piece as well as a letter to the Western States Water Council, both of which can be found on my website, I discuss the dangers of the Corps’ proposed rule. By its new proposed regulation the Corps wants to define "surplus water" in order to control and obtain revenue from so-called surplus water in Corps-managed reservoirs.

The new proposed rule is objected to and opposed by Indian tribes and several states. It must be reported just the same that none of these objecting parties effectively or productively advised Congress on this issue.

There is no question that the Corps is an essential agency in the operation of public dams, and in managing successful regional and national flood protection systems. The Corps’ value and success do not however justify its acquisitive effort to control waters to the prejudice legitimate public water claimants whether they are states or Indian tribes.

The Corps is a regulatory monopoly with management over certain waters of the United States. The Corps is in effect the world’s largest civil engineering firm. As a federal agency it has been in existence since 1802 making the Corps one of the oldest federal agencies. The Corps outlasts president after president and has outlived every session of Congress since 1802. It is a powerful agency. Powerful agencies in Washington, D.C., have a saying, "Don’t worry – we can outlast the summer help around here." By summer help they refer to the president and members of Congress.

The House of Representatives in the 2018 bill "requests" that the surplus waters problem be fixed. The bill’s language does not resolve the issue or require the Corps to change its ways. The bill’s language merely makes a request. The bill states, “Surplus Water—The Committee urges the Corps to consider adoption of the alternative definition of ‘‘surplus water’’ excluding ‘‘natural flows’’ from stored water in the Missouri River mainstem reservoirs. . . .“

This is ineffective. The bill’s language was not written by an informed observer. Nor was it written by an informed participant in water rights. The bill’s language accomplishes nothing. Bureaucracies by their nature do not prefer change from the outside.


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Is the Missouri River a mere obstacle?
David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices practices law in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law. Contact David Ganje davidganje@ganjelaw.com. His website is Lexenergy.net

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