Ken Danks letter: Multiple benefits from dam and lake
I read The Forum's recent articles concerning the Missouri River and the anniversary of the Garrison Dam. There is no doubt that Garrison Dam and the reservoir it forms, Lake Sakakawea, have massively altered the landscape and the lives of people...
I read The Forum's recent articles concerning the Missouri River and the anniversary of the Garrison Dam. There is no doubt that Garrison Dam and the reservoir it forms, Lake Sakakawea, have massively altered the landscape and the lives of people living in central and western North Dakota. The changes that followed closure of the dam were truly a sacrifice by North Dakotans that has provided huge, multiple benefits to many people especially those living downstream along the Missouri River.
It is heart-sickening to see representatives of downstream states standing in court rooms today fighting against North Dakota's efforts to develop and maintain a recreation industry on the Missouri River system. It seems that now, during times of low runoff, downstream interests are demanding that North Dakotans make even greater sacrifices to their advantage. This is unacceptable and I am pleased Gov. John Hoeven and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem are pressing for our right to also benefit from the Missouri River and its reservoirs.
Patrick Springer's article included comments from a Brian Keith Russell, apparently a University of North Dakota grad student from Alaska. Unfortunately, it seems that Russell does not yet have a firm grasp of the history behind Missouri River management and the way it has evolved. From early statehood to present day, state leaders have maintained a vision of using the river's abundant water resources to support economic growth and enhance the quality of life across the state. Promises made in the Pick-Sloan Plan seemed to provide the means to realize that vision.
Contrary to Russell's opinion, the Garrison Dam, a part of the Pick-Sloan Plan was and is needed to meet North Dakota's water needs. While the landscape is forever altered, Lake Sakakawea provides a beautiful place to live and recreate. In 2000, Lake Sakakawea provided about 270,000 angler days of recreation with total economic values conservatively estimated at $23.7 million. This translates into about $46 million in business activity. An optimistic, but still realistic, methodology pegs those numbers at $43.6 million and $88.6 million respectively.
Russell correctly states that benefits North Dakota has received, at least in terms of irrigation, have been minimal. However, we have, and will continue to receive benefits such as flood control, inexpensive hydropower and water supply distribution systems. (Fighting tooth and nail for water supply system funding has become a matter of course.) If we can overcome downstream greed and are allowed to develop and maintain our substantial recreation potential, North Dakota's benefits will continue to grow.
The Friends of Lake Sakakawea was established to coordinate and promote recreational use of Lake Sakakawea. As chairman, I invite your readers to join us in that effort.
Chairman Ken Danks
Friends of Lake Sakakawea
New Town, N.D.