Senators want Army Corps to reassess Missouri River water levels

Baucus, Tester send letter asking for reevaluation of river management

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana's U.S. Senators say it's time for the government to reconsider the way it manages water levels in the upper Missouri River in Montana.

Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, along with Senators from North and South Dakota, today sent a bipartisan letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking for funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate water levels in the Missouri River.

"A study of the contemporary needs of the basin is the most cost-effective way to inform Congress of what changes, if any, should be made," Baucus and Tester wrote.

The Senators want to "determine if the physical, economic, or environmental conditions have changed" since Congress set up the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System.  The system oversees water levels in reservoirs along the Missouri River, including Fort Peck Lake.

Baucus and Tester say low water levels in the upper Missouri River and Fort Peck Lake have become an increasing concern during the ongoing drought, especially for farmers, ranchers and communities that rely on Fort Peck boaters and anglers.

"The Missouri River is incredibly important to our economy for recreation and good-paying jobs," Baucus said. "There needs to be a review about how to manage the river so that all interested are met—Fort Peck Lake levels must be higher. I'm committed to working together with Jon to make sure our water needs are met and we don't get the short end of the stick."

"I know a thing or two about the importance of water for communities across northern Montana," said Tester, a Big Sandy farmer.  "It's time to reassess water needs up and down the Missouri to make sure Montana's farms and communities are getting their fair share."

Senators Tim Johnson, D-S.D., John Thune, R-S.D., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D. cosigned the letter to the Appropriations Committee.

The Senators' letter is available online HERE.