Bill introduced to create trust fund to support Missouri River

Bill introduced to create trust fund to support Missouri River Senator Tom Daschle announced March 24 that he has introduced legislation to create a $200 million "Missouri River Trust Fund" to support South Dakota's efforts to protect and enhance the river which is so important to the state's culture and economy.

Daschle said the trust fund not only would support efforts to reverse the sediment build-up and shore erosion that have taken place on the river since the construction of federal dams in the 1960s, but also fund improvements in recreation, conservation, and the protection of cultural sites. It would also extend the ability of the dams to generate affordable electricity for the region.

"The Missouri River is central to the economic well-being of not only riverside communities, but our entire state," Daschle said. "We have to reverse the detrimental changes the river has undergone in the past 20 years, and we need to do all we can to improve opportunities for businesses, communities, boaters and tourism all along the river. The Missouri River Trust Fund would support those efforts and help protect this important resource."

The Trust fund would be fully capitalized 10 years after passage of Daschle's legislation. It would then generate $12 million in interest annually to be used for river improvements. Daschle's legislation also establishes a 25-member board known as the "Missouri River Trust" to administer the funds. The governor would appoint 15 members of the board with the remaining 10 made up of a representative from each of South Dakota's nine Indian Tribes, and one from the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota.

A Coherent Long-Term Plan to Protect the River

In January, Daschle held a "Missouri River Summit" in Springfield which included Governor Bill Janklow, federal, state, and local officials and tribal leaders to discuss plans for future use of the river and for dealing with the worsening problems faced by the businesses and communities that depend on it. Since then, he developed his trust fund legislation in consultation with those participants and others in the state.

The trust would move efforts to protect the river from the current piecemeal approach toward development of a coherent long-term plan, he said.

Last September, Daschle led officials from across the state on a boat tour of the river to investigate the economic and social impact that the substantial sediment build-up and bank erosion has had on riverside communities. That same month, Daschle secured $7.5 million to purchase flooded homes in Pierre and Fort Pierre. The funds will help relocate hundreds of people whose houses have been flooded by the operation of the Oahe Dam.

Daschle also successfully enacted legislation last year directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to reduce the build-up of sediment in the Missouri River near Springfield, where the problem is especially acute.

Sen. Tim Johnson applauded Daschle's introduction of the Missouri River Trust Fund. Johnson will be a co-sponsor of the legislation.

"This is great news for the entire state of South Dakota," Johnson said. "And I congratulate Senator Daschle for introducing this legislation. The Missouri River is a valuable resource for South Dakota in agriculture, recreation and hydropower production. Its historical significance and delicate ecosystems make it imperative that we make every effort to care for and responsibly preserve the river.

"I believe the creation of this fund is a proactive and positive step toward helping to protect the Missouri River and address many of the challenges it faces now and in the future."

Following is an outline of Daschle's Missouri River Trust Fund Legislation.

Senator Tom Daschle's

Missouri River Trust Fund Introduced March 2000

The trust fund would:

* Establish a $200 million trust fund that, when fully capitalized in 10 years, will provide $12 million in interest each year to protect the river.

* Establish a 25 member board called the "Missouri River Trust" to administer the fund.

* Require development of a plan to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the Missouri, better protect historic sites, protect fish and wildlife, and improve our ability to recreate on the river.

How Will the Trust

be Formed?

* The Governor will appoint 15 members.

* The remaining 10 will represent each of South Dakota's nine Indian tribes and the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, who are connected to many of the historic sites on the river.

Where Will the Trust

Have Jurisdiction?

* The Trust will work primarily in South Dakota, but it will have the authority to cross state lines.

* For example, it can fund programs to improve conservation in the Niobrara River watershed in Nebraska, which is the source of the sedimentation near Springfield.

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