Missouri River Task Force regains life

Missouri River Task Force regains life
After several years of lying dormant, a Missouri River task force has gained new life both financially and politically.

Gov. Mike Rounds will appoint members to a committee which came out of a Missouri River summit at Springfield in 2000 but was never activated, University of South Dakota professor Howard Coker said Tuesday.

Coker made the announcement at the sixth annual Missouri River Institute Research Symposium on the USD campus. The event focuses on preserving the last remaining portion of the river unmodified by dams. This 59-mile section runs from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, to Ponca State Park in Nebraska.�

�Gov. Rounds is in the process of setting up a task force to study sedimentation,� Coker said. �A letter from Corps of Engineers officials at Omaha was sent to Gov. Rounds, saying there were dollars available to set up a task force.�

Coker has been working on a proposal to remove sediment from Lewis and Clark Lake, then deposit it below Gavins Point Dam. USD business professor Dennis Johnson has assisted Coker with a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal.

�The project has evolved to the point where it requires a lot of expertise beyond two university professors,� Coker said. �We have been unfunded so far, and the next steps can�t be taken without substantial funding.�

That�s where Rounds� revival of the task force can take restoration efforts to the next level, Coker said.

The task force members were never appointed by then-Gov. Bill Janklow, said Bob Cappel of the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce.

�This goes back to Sen. (Tom) Daschle and the Missouri River summit at Springfield, when they set aside dollars. They had $200,000 set aside to study the issue,� Cappel said in a separate interview.

�It was up to the governor (at the time) to make it happen, and it didn�t. Now, you have Gov. Rounds ready to run with it.�

The task force will tackle sediment and other issues, Cappel predicted. He said he has detected a shift in the emphasis of Missouri River issues in recent years. After the Springfield summit, most of the talk was about the river flows, but that has changed, he said.

�Gov. Rounds was trying to make flows a high priority, including the (multi-state) summit at Dakota Dunes. Sediment took a back seat as far as high profile,� Cappel said. �Now, we are seeing more interest in sediment.�

Yankton will play a key role in the discussion, Cappel said. �We are looking at two fronts � Yankton as part of the Missouri National Recreation River and Yankton as part of the Lewis and Clark issues.�

While Lewis and Clark Lake sediment will remain a key issue, the river effort will broaden across the entire basin, said Kevin Kuhl, a Missouri River supporter from Yankton who gave a presentation at Tuesday�s symposium.

The increasing cooperation of South Dakota and Nebraska will give the Missouri River effort double the resources and political clout, Kuhl said in a separate interview.

�South Dakota has been very pro-active on sediment, and Nebraska has been very good on other aspects of the recreation river,� he said. �When we marry up the cost-benefit ratio � if we look at the aspects of both states � it makes things look a lot more do-able.�

River issues, including sediment, will be presented as a major concern during the annual Chamber fly-in to Washington, D.C., next month, Cappel said. The 21 South Dakota and Nebraska residents will meet with both states� congressional delegations.

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