League Comments on Proposed Stored Water Rule

Oahe Dam
On May 15, the League submitted comments on a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rule intended to clarify the Corps' approach to water stored in Corps-operated systems, including the Missouri River reservoir system. Questions about the Corps’ approach include the pricing of water agreements and the reallocation and accounting of water in storage. This proposed rule attempts to clarify the process for approving and entering into water supply agreements with certain users and facilitate coordination among states, tribes, and other government agencies to ensure water rights are protected.

In our comments, the League expressed concern with the Corps’ plan to begin charging Municipal and Industrial (M&I) users for water stored in the reservoirs. In addition to new fees on some water users, we feel the proposed rule does not fairly allocate water resources. The rule would require payment from new users who take water from the Missouri River reservoirs, but the proposal allows water users downstream of the six mainstem dams to withdraw Missouri River water without any payment. If approved, the rule would impose, for the first time, a fee for water stored in the Missouri River reservoirs. That fee would be assessed to some people wanting to use water for a municipal or industrial use.

The League believes that this drastic policy change is not needed. However, if the Corps proceeds with this approach, the final rule should include all water users along the entire Missouri River, not just reservoir users. The League also commented that states have the right to manage the Missouri River's natural flows – water that would flow through the state – with or without the existence of the dams and reservoirs. The states have existing rights to waters within their boundaries, and we feel those rights should be honored by the Corps.