Congress rejects Corps plan

Congress has successfully thwarted efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to charge residents and business owners for using water from Missouri River reservoirs.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he has been assured that a provision forbidding the Corps to charge a water usage fee will be part of a water projects bill negotiated by House and Senate members. The provision, written by Hoeven, would ban the Corps from charging a water usage fee for at least 10 years. After that, Congress could extend the rule.

It’s good news for residents and businesses in North?Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, who protested the Corps’ plan from the moment it was introduced. The argument from those states was simple: How can the Corps charge to use water that already belongs to the states? The Corps’ plan ignored state water rights, and would have essentially revoked agreements states made with the Corps decades earlier, when productive farm land was sacrificed to build flood protection system.

We’d be even happier had Congress permanently prohibited the Corps from charging states for access to water that is historically and legally theirs to use, but at least the Corps’ illogical plan has been rejected after enough members of Congress recognized the idea for what it was: A brazen attempt to circumvent the water rights of at least three states.