The Roundup -

ND Officials Tour LYIP


September 27, 2017 | View PDF

LYIP Project Manager James Brower explains how the proposed improvements at Intake will aid the recovery of the endangered pallid sturgeon and other fish species. Pictured (L-R) are McKenzie County Economic Development Coordinator Daniel Stenberg, McKenzie County Commissioner Gene Veeder, Chairman of the Board of Control of LYIP Richard Cakyo, LYIP Project Manager James Brower and North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford.

Officials from North Dakota traveled to Richland County on Sept. 21 to tour the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project. North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford, McKenzie County Economic Development Coordinator Daniel Stenberg and McKenzie County Commissioner Gene Veeder were in attendance. The officials were invited by LYIP Project Manager James Brower and Chairman of the Board of Control Richard Cakyo to tour the irrigation project and gain a better understanding of its importance to the region. The Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project extends from Intake north east of Glendive past East Fairview in North Dakota, all the way to the Snowden Bridge on the Missouri River. The canal brings water to 18,730 acres of irrigated land in McKenzie County.

In addition to Richland County the Sidney Sugars factory takes beets from Trenton, ND, Terry & Culbertson, MT. A couple of years ago Sidney Sugars indicated that if they had a 25% reduction in the reliability of irrigation in this valley, they would shut down and that would affect the beet growers as far away as Terry, Culbertson and Trenton and those town's economies.

Brower began by showing the officials the entirety of the project on a map in the LYIP office and presented historic photos of the project's beginning in 1904. The tour then made its way to Intake for a first hand look at the headwaters of the canal with a drive through Fox Creek to view wildlife habitat that did not exist prior to the canal's construction. While at Intake the group had the opportunity to look over the historic and existing facilities and Brower explained the proposed improvements. The tour then proceeded to the Sugar Valley operations in East Fairview.

The Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation have been trying to proceed with improvements to the current structure at Intake and construction of a fish bypass to help the endangered pallid sturgeon reproduce. The improvements will aid the pallid in travelling up the Yellowstone River to spawn with enough distance for their larva to develop as they flow downstream toward Lake Sakakawea.

Environmental groups headquartered outside the area have persuaded federal judge Brian Morris to implement an injunction on proceeding with improvements. Despite over 15 years of study into the proposed project, the Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council argue that there has not been enough data to prove the new structure is certain to recover the species. They have also asked the judge to take things one step further and rule that the current structure is in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The current structure at Intake was authorized by the Secretary of the Interior in 1904 and is protected by law from the U.S. Congress prior to the passage of both environmental acts.


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