Missouri River Association of States and Tribes

Surplus Water Supply Issue

June 1st, 2011 | Posted by David Pope in Information | Surplus Water Supply - (Comments Off on Surplus Water Supply Issue)

The following is a brief summary of the Surplus Water Supply Issue.  A series of documents may also be accessed below to more fully describe the proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), as well as comments from several States and Tribes.

Access to water supply from the Missouri River and associated reservoirs is a current issue of major concern to a number of States, Tribes and water users.  The basic issue, as it pertains to the Missouri River appears to be that the USACE is applying a new policy as it relates to withdrawal of water from the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System irrespective of whether such water is stored water or water available from the natural flow of the Missouri River but for which access across Federal property is needed to divert water from the river.

Historically, water users who diverted water from the shore of a USACE Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir were able to obtain easements to cross Federal property with pipelines and to place water intakes in one of the reservoirs to allow the withdrawal of water for beneficial uses, such as municipal or industrial water supply, irrigation or other uses.  In most cases, this diversion of water is from the natural flow of the Missouri River pursuant to water rights granted by the applicable State.  In the case of a withdrawal of water on an Indian Reservation, the Tribal Government holds Federal Reserved Water Rights, and it can authorize withdrawal of water from the natural flow.  For the area in question, the natural flow of the Missouri River (the flow not supplemented by reservoir storage) apparently exceeds the total diversion of water by all current and proposed users at any given time, so a withdrawal from reservoir storage is not necessary to provide a reliable source of water.

On June 6, 2008, the USACE issued Real Estate Policy Guidance Letter No. 26 – Easements to Support Water Supply Storage Agreements and Surplus Water Agreements.  Subsequent to this Policy Guidance and based on requests for easements or requests to withdraw water from Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, the USACE determined that it would be necessary for such water users to enter into Water Supply Agreements for the use of water from Lake Sakakawea and pay the for the use of water.  In December 2010, the Omaha District, USACE, released a Draft Surplus Water Report and Draft Environmental Assessment for the Garrison Dam/Lake Sakakawea Project in North Dakota.