Billings Ag Community turns out to Support Lower Yellowstone Irrigators



Last night in Billings, the Army Corps of Engineers held a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Intake Diversion Dam.  The result was a huge outpouring of support for fellow farmers who live over 200 miles downstream on the Yellowstone River.  


It was the third and final Public Meeting held this week to discuss the 6 proposed alternatives for the Intake Diversion Dam Fish Passage Project.  Steve Davies of the Bureau of Reclamation said altogether the three nights drew over 900 people to discuss the Lower Yellowstone Intake Diversion Dam.


As with the other two hearings, last night brought overwhelming support for the proposed Bypass Channel option that is also the preferred option supported by the Bureau of Reclamation, US Army Corp of Engineers and Fish Wildlife and Parks, as a passage for fish to migrate around the irrigation weir structure in the river.   The Bypass Channel Alternative comes with an estimated price tag of $57 Million dollars.  


Only three members of Trout Unlimited and the Defenders of Wildlife spoke against what the Corps said is their “Preferred Alternative”.  Those groups advocated instead to remove the irrigation weir, and use a massive system of electrical pumps instead of the more economical flood irrigation to water the 58,000 acres of the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project.  The cost estimates for this alternative totaled almost a half billion dollars at $477,925,000 and had an estimated $4.3 million annual operation, maintenance and repair costs.  This would represent a 66{75e25ebeb47fb4337942be2c10689dca1c292c2a66240b62c5ca4214f5b25ecc} increase in costs for irrigators compared to what they currently pay.  A representative from American Rivers joined them, saying his organization has been involved in 200 Dam Removals across the nation.  


(Northern Ag Network photo, information provided by U.S. Army Corp of Engineers)

On the other side, 51 individuals spoke in favor of the Bypass channel  Supporters included the 62 people who traveled by bus from eastern Montana where the project is located, mostly farmers and local business people whose towns depend on the agricultural economy.  When Tammy Christensen, an owner of the Case IH equipment dealership in Sidney asked for people to stand in a “straw poll”, an estimated 275 people stood up in support and perhaps a dozen remained seated in opposition. 

Northern Ag Network's Taylor Brown, who testified support of Yellowstone irrigators, also attended the meeting along with Augie Aga and Jami Howell.   


Public Comment will be accepted until July 28th.  


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Omaha District
1616 Capitol Avenue
Omaha, NE 68102


CLICK HERE to learn more about the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation project and the arguments for and against the project.  


© Northern Ag Network 2016

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