Corps Working on Plan to Ease Cheyenne River Water Shortage

In South Dakota, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will complete by April 18 a study on options to make sure the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation area does not run out of drinking water this summer, an official said Wednesday.

Col. Jeffrey A. Bedey, commander and district engineer of the corps' Omaha District, said the study will look at options and costs for extending the intake that draws Missouri River water for the system that serves about 14,000 residents.

Bedey met with officials of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, local governments and the Tri-County Rural Water District in a meeting hosted by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Thune said decisions should be made soon because tribal officials predict the intake now in the Cheyenne River arm of the Oahe Reservoir could become unusable by August.

Bedey added that the corps can help solve the problem, but money will be needed to move the intake so it stays underwater.

A final decision will not be made until after spring runoff moves into the Missouri River system, because the corps will then be able to predict water levels later in the year, according to Bedey.

One of the primary sources of water for the river is snowmelt from the northern Rocky Mountains, but the mountain snowpack is only about two-thirds of normal. The water level in Lake Oahe, which stretches from central South Dakota into North Dakota, is about 28 feet below normal after six years of drought.

Options for fixing the system include moving the water intake to a deeper part of the same bay where it is currently located or moving it to another location four miles away.

Tribal officials said the long-term solution is to move the intake 12 miles to the Missouri River's main channel. That project could cost $70 million or more and take at least several years, but they urged that planning should start now.

Sioux City Journal

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