OUR VIEW: Missouri River history is repeatingAfter the terrible floods of 2011, it seems odd to say this: The water levels of the Oahe Reservoir are too precious to be wasted on downstream interests.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Funny how history repeats itself, and especially on the Missouri River.
Just a few years ago, Oahe Dam, near Pierre, was so low that once-useful boat ramps were hundreds of yards from the nearest water.
Then came 2011, when record flooding nearly sent water over the top of Oahe’s huge wall.
And now, heading into 2013, we’re back where we were — low water levels due to drought conditions.
The Daily Republic last week published a report that outlined how some governors and members of Congress are pleading with President Obama to issue an emergency declaration that would force the Corps of Engineers to send Missouri River through the dams to aid the Mississippi River shipping industry.
Federal law does not mandate that the Missouri be managed for the benefit of the Mississippi, so for now, there’s not much that can be done. That is, unless Obama buckles to the pressure of those who represent downstream business.
After the terrible floods of 2011, it seems odd to say this: The water levels of the Oahe Reservoir are too precious to be wasted on downstream interests.
Fishing use of the Oahe Reservoir corresponds to water levels. According to the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks, anglers visit the river about 200,000 to 250,000 times during normal and higher-water years, but only about 100,000 to 150,000 times during low-water years.
When the water level is low, pushing water downstream could be catastrophic to upstream fishing and recreation industries that rely upon the Missouri. It also could mean more costs to the state, which would once again have to make renovations to infrastructure along the river so people can access it while its level dips ever lower.
South Dakota’s tourism and fishing industry is so vital to our economy. We do not pretend to know the economic importance of Mississippi River shipping, but we do know that its survival should not come at South Dakotans’ expense.