The Roundup -

Declarations Needed for LYIP


Despite over a decade of study of over 150 alternatives multiple times, millions of dollars spent by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and other entities and a determination of the best possible solution to ensure the survival of the pallid sturgeon in the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, a lawsuit filed by the Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council threatens to derail the entire process and put the survival of the fish and the communities along the rivers in jeopardy.

An administrative court hearing on the injunction will be held on August 12 in Great Falls. Prior to that, the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation project is seeking declarations attesting to the benefits of the irrigation project and the harms caused by any delays. Those benefits are endless and include the obvious such as the Sidney Sugars factory, the Busch Ag plant and the economic vitality of the communities along the Yellowstone. Other benefits may not be so obvious but are just as important. Those include the raising of the water table during irrigation which recharges our drinking wells and creates wildlife habitat, the increased tax base from irrigated land vs. dry land, the dollars generated by feed byproducts from Sidney Sugars and Busch Ag, the animal feed grown in the valley which has gone all over the United States, Japan, and Canada in times of drought, the extensive work conducted by both the EARC and the NPARL, just to name a few.

Anyone wishing to make a declaration is invited to send it to Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, 2327 Lincoln Ave SE, Sidney MT 59270. Attorneys for LYIP will review the declarations and use what they deem is best to defend the project.

For those people who care about the pallid sturgeon, the lawsuit will delay, perhaps forever, the completion of the fish bypass, which has been chosen as the best solution to ensure survival of the prehistoric fish while not hurting the communities. The project has gone out for bid and construction is due to start this fall. It will take approximately 3 years to complete the concrete weir and fish passage. That is the time frame given the pallid sturgeon before extinction in the wild. Delaying the project, with no quick, viable alternate solutions, is imperiling the wild fish and virtually guaranteeing its demise. To date, the only solution proposed by the plaintiffs would include the removal of the diversion dam at Intake. Farmers would then be required to pump water for irrigation; a process that would generate pollution – harming all species, and that is financially unfeasible.

While many of the declarations in support of the lawsuit favor recreational activities, some ask USACE to change the flows of water from Fort Peck dam to help the pallid sturgeon. According to James Brower, manager of LYIP, studies prove there is not enough distance from Fort Peck to Lake Sakakawea to allow for larval drift, no matter what the flows are out of the dam. “That’s why it makes even more sense for the USACE to do a fish bypass at Intake,” he explained. He added that Fish and Wildlife could still get common sense changes to Fort Peck spills even with the changes at Intake. One is not dependent on the other. “The fish bypass at Intake gives the pallid sturgeon larval a much better chance at survival, and it doesn’t hurt the farmers, ranchers and the communities in north eastern Montana and the rest of the river drainage.” Brower stated. “

The State of Montana and MT Fish and Wildlife have filed an amicus brief in support of the fish passage at Intake. Governors, as well as senators and congressmen from both Montana and North Dakota have been asked for support of the Intake project and LYIP. Any help from the public in defending life as we know it in the MonDak region would also be greatly appreciated.

For more information, please contact Brower at Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, 406-433-1306.


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