08.22.17

Rounds Delivers Opening Statement at EPW Subcommittee Hearing in Pierre

Hearing Entitled “Oversight of the U.S. Army Corps’ Management of the Missouri River”

PIERRE—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, today delivered the opening statement at his hearing in Pierre, entitled, “Oversight of the U.S. Army Corps’ Management of the Missouri River. The hearing will provide oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make certain the agency is working in an appropriate and responsible manner to manage the Missouri River.

 

Rounds’ opening statement, as prepared for delivery:

 

The Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight is meeting today to conduct a field hearing entitled “Oversight of the U.S. Army Corps’ Management of the Missouri River.” 

 

I would like to thank our witnesses for being with us today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

 

It is fitting that we would hold this hearing here, as we approach the Bicentennial of the settlement of Fort Pierre. 

 

Since its early days as a trading post in the 19th century, the Missouri River has been a vital component of the lives of the people living along the riverbank.

 

The United States Army Corps is responsible for managing the Missouri River in a way that effectively maintains the river’s eight authorized purposes – flood control, navigation, irrigation, hydropower, water supply, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife management. 

 

The Missouri River plays a vital role in the economy and livelihoods of those of us living in communities along the river. 

 

We depend on the river for drinking water, recreation, and agriculture. 

Proper management of the Missouri is an essential component to the success of our cities and towns.

 

Proper management of the Missouri requires the Corps to work closely and communicate extensively with stakeholders such as state and local governments and understand the needs of the communities within the Missouri River basin.

 

After the 2011 flood, in which communities all along the Missouri, as well as our state capitol of Pierre, suffered millions of dollars of damage to homes, city streets, sewage systems, and parks, citizens and local government officials quickly focused on what steps should be taken to make certain this type of destruction never happens again.

 

Because one of the driving factors of the destruction was the lack of advance notice to residents, who received less than one week to prepare for the rising flood waters, a 2014 Water Resource Reform bill, also known as WRRDA attempted to provide the Army Corps with additional resources to increase their flood monitoring capabilities.

 

This legislation authorized the Army Corps to coordinate with various government agencies to administer a soil moisture and snowpack monitoring network and maintain snowpack monitoring sites in the Upper Missouri River Basin.

 

At a March 2016 subcommittee hearing titled “Five Years from the Flood:  Oversight of the Army Corps’ Management of the Missouri River and Suggestions for Improvement,” which we held in North Sioux City, we learned that the Army Corps had made little progress towards implementation of the snowpack monitoring network because they had failed to submit an appropriations request to Congress to fund the program. 

 

Additionally, we learned the Corps was unclear as to what agency should take the lead on implementing the program which also prevented them from moving forward with the snowpack monitoring network.

 

As a result of this information, I had language included in the 2016 WRDA bill that directed the U.S. Army Corps to be the lead agency for coordinating the soil moisture and snowpack monitoring network in the Upper Missouri River Basin.

 

Additionally, I was able to have an amendment included in the 2017 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill that would have provided the Corps with two million dollars to begin implementation of the snowpack monitoring program.

 

Throughout the 2017 runoff season, there was a noticeable improvement in communication between the Corps and stakeholders in the Upper Missouri River Basin. 

 

I was encouraged to see the Corps’ effort to hold stakeholder conference calls, public meetings and post regular snowpack level updates on their website.

 

I look forward to receiving an update from the Corps’ and the state and local governments regarding their views of the coordination among stakeholders during this past runoff season.

 

The Corps, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is also responsible for administering the Missouri River Recovery Program which aims to replace lost habitat for three threatened and endangered species along the Missouri River. 

 

The program seeks to coordinate with local stakeholder groups, in particular the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, to develop sandbar and wetland habitat to conserve the pallid sturgeon, the lease tern, and the piping plover.

 

A more recent issue we have been confronted with has been the rapidly rising and falling water levels in Lake Sharpe that have occurred over the past several months. 

 

These fluctuating water levels have been responsible for property damage and there are concerns this may also impact the fish spawn that recreational fishermen along the Missouri depend on for a successful fishing season.

 

I hope to hear from the Corps that these water releases are being done responsibly and with consideration of the various interests along the River.

 

A healthy and well-managed Missouri River is critical to the communities surrounding it.

 

Today we will hear testimony from both the U.S. Army Corps and state and local government officials on the status of the management of the river and any potential improvements that can be made to better meet the needs of both the surrounding communities and the Corps.

 

Each witness will have five minutes to present their testimony and I will follow-up with questions to the witnesses.

 

I’d like to again thank our witnesses for being with us today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

 

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