Thune: Corps lacks legal authority to release waterWater cannot be legally released from Missouri River reservoirs with the prime purpose of aiding navigation on the Mississippi River, Sen. John Thune said Wednesday.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
Water cannot be legally released from Missouri River reservoirs with the prime purpose of aiding navigation on the Mississippi River, Sen. John Thune said Wednesday.
Thune, R-S.D., repeated his criticism of efforts to release extra water from reservoirs in South Dakota, and said sending Missouri River water downstream will exacerbate severe drought conditions in South Dakota and other upstream states.
“The corps very clearly does not have the legal authority under the Flood Control Act of 1944 to operate reservoirs on the Missouri River specifically to aid Mississippi River navigation,” Thune told reporters in a teleconference.
He led an effort by members of Congress from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas in trying to block a request from downstream state officials who are seeking a presidential emergency declaration.
The downstream interests hope to stop the Corps of Engineers from slowing releases from Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota in the coming weeks, as dictated by the “master manual,” the operating document used to determine management decisions for the Missouri River reservoirs.
Thune and his allies sent a letter last week stating their case. Thune sites a 1990 analysis done by the Government Accountability Office that says downstream navigation interests do not legally warrant releasing water.
Furthermore, Thune said releasing water to aid barge navigation would worsen the ongoing and severe drought in the upper basin states where water levels are already 20 percent below normal.
“All we’re simply saying is the Missouri River is designed to be managed according to the master manual and the law to benefit the uses that are described under the authorizing legislation for the Missouri, not to benefit the Mississippi River,” he said.