By Rep. Kristi Noem
In South Dakota, we are blessed with water resources for drinking, boating, fishing and farming. In a drought year like this one, we’re reminded of just how critical water is, but we’re also not too far removed from having seen its destructive power.
Last year, residents along the Missouri River had their lives turned upside down by rising waters that came with almost no notice. While folks along the Missouri River are still working to rebuild damaged homes and businesses, the Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a ridiculous and legally questionable plan to charge South Dakotans for using their own water.
The Corps wants to charge what it calls a “storage fee” for the use of Missouri River water out of reservoirs. South Dakota has a right to water in the Missouri River, but the Corps wants to charge us for it just because it’s sitting in a reservoir behind a dam the Corps built. That defies common sense. South Dakotans should not have to pay for water that is legally and historically ours.
On August 27, I joined members of Missouri River communities in expressing frustration over the Corps’ proposal at a public meeting in Pierre. I also requested a formal Congressional hearing on the plan. In a letter I sent with Reps. Rick Berg (R-ND) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT) to U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, we expressed concern that the proposal contradicts legal and historical precedents.
Chairman Mica is well aware of the concerns South Dakotans already have with the Corps. He joined me in Pierre in the aftermath of last year’s flooding for a roundtable about the Corps’ ineffective management of the flood.
South Dakotans deserve a hearing on the impact this proposal would have on communities along the Missouri. I will continue to hold the Corps’ feet to the fire throughout this process and encourage folks to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns about the Corps’ proposal.
Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s lone U.S. Representative, elected in November 2010. She serves on the Agriculture, Education and Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.