Drought revives old water war among Missouri River statesDrought-stricken states are pleading for the increasingly scarce water of the Missouri River — to drink from their faucets, irrigate their crops and float the barges that carry billions of dollars of agricultural products to market.
By: DAVID A. LIEB, The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The water wars are raging again in America’s heartland, where drought-stricken states are pleading for the increasingly scarce water of the Missouri River — to drink from their faucets, irrigate their crops and float the barges that carry billions of dollars of agricultural products to market.
From Montana to West Virginia, officials on both sides have written President Barack Obama urging him to intervene — or not — in a long-running dispute over whether water from the Missouri’s upstream reservoirs should be released into the Mississippi River to ease low water levels that have imperiled commercial traffic.
The quarrel pits boaters, fishermen and tourism interests against communities downstream and companies that rely on the Mississippi to do business.
“We are back to the age-old old battle of recreation and irrigation verses navigation,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri.
If the water is held back, down-Drought conditions have not changed in the Dakotas over the week.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows all of South Dakota remaining in some form of drought and just short of twothirds of the state in the two
stream states warn that shipping on the Mississippi could come to a near standstill sometime after Christmas along a 180-mile stretch between St. Louis and the southern Illinois town of Cairo. But if the water is released, upstream communities worry that the toll of the drought could be even worse next year for farms and towns that depend on the Missouri.
From his perch as executive director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority, Dan Overbey watched this week as workers scrambled to ship out grain before the Mississippi gets so low that it is not economically feasible or physically possible to move loaded-down barges. worst categories, extreme and exceptional.
North Dakota has nothing worse than severe drought. About one-third of the state is in that category.
About 91 percent of the state is rated as abnormally dry or in some form of drought.
“I don’t know if we’ll have, ‘How the Grinch Stole the River’ here,” Overbey said. But if there is water to spare, “it would be a good thing to do.”
More than 800 miles to the northwest, Michael Dwyer was also stewing. He’s the executive vice president of the North Dakota Water Users Association.
To Dwyer, the downriver interests are “taking selfishness” to “a level you can’t even comprehend.”
“We suffered the impact of these reservoirs” when they were created decades ago by dams that flooded 500,000 acres of bottomland, Dwyer said. “To have some use of the resource only seems appropriate.”