In a meeting today with Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Gov. Jack Dalrymple reiterated the state's strong opposition to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' proposal that calls for charging cities, businesses, tribes, farmers and ranchers for access to Missouri River water. Craig Schmauder, deputy general counsel for the Army, also attended the Washington D.C. meeting.
"The Missouri River's natural flows are the rightful property of the people of North Dakota and we will vigorously oppose any attempt by the Corps to arbitrarily begin charging a water fee," Dalrymple said.
In May 2010, the Corp began blocking access to Missouri River water in North Dakota and proposed charging for water to recoup the costs of building the Garrison Dam. Two years later, after repeated challenges by Dalrymple, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and the state's Congressional Delegation, the Corps announced in May 2012 that it would begin issuing temporary, no-cost permits to tap water from the Missouri River. Corps officials said temporary, no-cost permits would be issued while the agency develops a national surplus water policy.
Since May 2012, the Corps has issued one temporary permit, allowing International Western to draw water from a site in Williams County.
Dalrymple told Darcy that the Corps should expedite the issuance of water permits and drop any consideration to charge for water in the future. He said demand for Missouri River water continues to grow and Native American tribes also heavily rely on free access to the river.
"The Missouri River is a vital water source to the state of North Dakota and it should remain permanently available without cost," Dalrymple said. "North Dakota citizens gave up about 550,000 acres of prime farmland and resources for construction of the Garrison Dam and we will not accept any decision by the Corps to charge for Missouri River water."