Written by The Herald-News
The Lower Missouri River Basin Advisory Council held the first in a basin-wide series of scoping meetings in Lewistown on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Nearly three dozen participants attended the meeting to learn about the Montana Water Supply Initiative planning process, surface water supplies, groundwater and water rights as well as to identify major issues of concern relating to water use in the future.
Don Pfau, member of the Fort Peck Lake Advisory Committee, questioned whether any more of the annual average of 7.2 million acre/feet of water sent downriver out of state via the Missouri could be retained to help maintain water levels behind the Fort Peck reservoir during the summer.
In ordinary measurement language, the average year's outflow from Montana, which is considered a headwaters state, is a whopping 2.36 trillion gallons, and in 2011 was 5.5 trillion gallons.
The group agreed that more research is needed to find out how much of that water must be sent along to meet downstream water right claims.
Other thorny issues that surfaced included what can be done to protect water quality as the energy boom uses more water for development of oil and gas wells in eastern Montana; would more water storage projects be a cost-effective way to make sure that water is available during drought years; how can water use be accurately measured; and will political concerns have an effect on implementation of any recommendations made as a result of this planning process.
Five more scoping meetings will be held over the next month in the Lower Missouri River basin. The Glasgow meeting was held Oct. 23 at the Cottonwood Inn. Additional meetings will be held in Culbertson, Oct. 24, at the public library; Roundup, Oct. 30, at St. Benedict's church; Harlowton, Oct. 31, at the Youth Center; and Havre, Nov. 7, at the Great Northern Inn. All meetings will begin at 10 a.m. and last until approximately 1:30 p.m., with lunch served.
All information and testimony presented at the meetings will also be available online at the Lower Missouri River Water Supply Initiative website, http://www.dnrc.mt.gov/wrd/water_mgmt/state_water_plan/lower_missouri/.