Gov. Brian Schweitzer has asked President Barack Obama to ignore pleas for an emergency declaration for more water to float barges on the drought-stricken Mississippi River.

"The emergency drought plan called for by a few senators relies on an emergency bailout from water in the Upper Missouri Basin," Schweitzer wrote in a letter Thursday, a copy of which was provided to The Gazette. "It is a knee-jerk, illegal reaction that will be tied up in courts for a very long time. It will exacerbate rather than soothe the tensions between the upper and lower Missouri River Basins, and it will render meaningless past and future basin-wide planning efforts if you allow this precedent of discarding those plans at a moment’s notice."

Schweitzer said the governors of North Dakota and South Dakota drafted a letter similar to his and asked him to join them in signing that document, but he declined. He said that after 2011's record flood, those states sought further reductions in Fort Peck Reservoir to ensure enough capacity to catch any future spring runoff, reducing the risk of another flood in the Dakotas.

"There wouldn't be any water to float boats if they'd had their way," he said.

Shipping and barge groups and three governors, 15 U.S. senators and 62 U.S. House members have written the Obama administration to ask the president to declare a state of emergency.

Schweitzer said the plan that guides the management of the Missouri River, which feeds Fort Peck Reservoir, does not include providing water for barge traffic on the Mississippi.

"The revised Master Manual for the Missouri River may not be perfect, but it should not be abandoned hastily when put to the test," he wrote. "Under the Master Manual, the Corps operates the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System to serve eight authorized purposes, but operations intended solely for the benefit of Mississippi River navigation are prohibited. The GAO confirmed the validity of this prohibition in a 1990 investigation of the matter."

Without the water releases, the downstream states say, the Mississippi River could be closed to barge traffic in December and January, halting the transport of $7 billion in commercial and agricultural products.

Whether there is drought or flood, Schweitzer said, "the conclusion everyone always comes to is drain Fort Peck."

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(8) comments

Regular Guy
Regular Guy

Enough with the "drought." Call it by its rightful name -- climate change.

Skinwalker
Skinwalker

RG: Absolutely. Montanans need to be aware of how precious our fresh water resources actually are and quit giving them away. I know there are Federal controls but that can be altered to Montana's favor.

Los Cangrejos
Los Cangrejos

No. I won't call it that. I will call it "snookum doo."

Skinwalker
Skinwalker

Good job Governor. Sounds like Montana's water in the Fort Peck reservoir is worth several billion dollars and I think Montana should get a few bucks for it. I see this as equivalent to asking the Feds to make North Dakota ship oil from the Bakken to Montana. All of that oil would be worth billions to the state of Montana. Since fossil fuels are causing the drought/flood cycles, I think it is time for the producers (ND) and users downstream to pay for their folly. Access to fresh water is going to start wars in the near future. It is important that Montana as a producer of fresh water, get compensation for this critical natural resource.

staceyronq
staceyronq

lock the gate. don't let him in.

Jus Wundrin
Jus Wundrin

Just another cheap progressive three card monty side show. Obama will release it for the betterment of the people, and brian the obama campaigner will say "well shucks, I tried."

A true progressive conundrum.

ReadySetGo
ReadySetGo

Good point. And the Van Dyk foolowers will drool with every word spoken from BS or Van Dyk on the issue. Hope the KoolAid doesn't get spiked during the next 4 years.

fidlr
fidlr

This is serious stuff and far from political B.S. Montana came to be known as the "Treasure State." but now it is not, gold, silver or copper, but plain old H2O, WATER that is becoming our most treasured resource. No matter what the flat earth rightwingers have long proclaimed, the world's greatest problem is now man made climate change. Who cares if they still deny it? As the coastal areas, where most of the world's population lives, become inundated with oceanic flooding we need to protect our inner lands and resources like Montanal.The flooded coastal areas will cause people to move farther inland, but climate change will produce more and more arid, desert-like regions in the far interior of the US. Water will be at a premium. The water of the Missouri-Mississippi basin will become much more than just a recreational-barge transportation vehicle, but a sustainable source of life, which in reality it has always been.. . . .

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