The Scouting Report: A weekly digest
Water politics, rising consumer debt, St. Patrick’s Parade, dinosaurs are coming
More Missouri River aquifer water could be coming to the region, thanks to quick work by the South Dakota Legislature.
Lawmakers have approved Senate Joint Resolution 502, which calls for providing the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System with an additional 17.07 million gallons of water a day. That would increase the system’s capacity to a whopping 60 million gallons a day.
For the uninitiated, Lewis & Clark captures water north of Vermillion from an aquifer fed by the Missouri River. The water is treated and piped to 20 members – communities and water providers – in eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. The project, decades in the making, enjoyed strong bipartisan support from governors and congressional delegations in those three states.
SJR 502 was sponsored by Sioux Falls Rep. Tony Venhuizen and Tea Sen. Herman Otten, both Republicans.
“They both did a great job in the committee hearings and on the floor of their respective chambers explaining the need for this additional capacity and responding to questions,” Lewis & Clark Executive Director Troy Larson said. That additional capacity will help the region with economic development opportunities.
While the resolution received strong support, it wasn’t unanimous. Some Native American members of the Legislature questioned what it would mean for their water rights on the river. Native Americans hold the most senior water rights on the river. Although those rights would not be affected by Lewis & Clark – in other words Native Americans would always have the ability to exercise their senior water rights before others – legislative Democrats voted against the resolution.
The resolution opens the door for the South Dakota Water Management Board to approve the additional capacity later this spring. Under South Dakota law, the board must approve any request that uses more than 10,000-acre feet per year. The current request equals 19,221-acre feet. “This is a rare occurrence as the last time legislative approval was needed was in 1994, and coincidentally that was also for Lewis & Clark,” Larson said.
In more Missouri River news, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking into its crystal ball for hints about what this season’s runoff will look like. As of now, the Corps is projecting a below-average runoff above Sioux City.
January runoff was only 56 percent of average. The Corps attributed that to “much-below-normal temperatures over the whole Missouri River Basin and below-normal precipitation over most of the upper basin.”
“The runoff into the reservoir system was well-below average for the month of January,” said John Remus, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “This fact in conjunction with the below-average plains and mountain snowpack indicates a below-normal runoff year for the basin.”