Thirsting for a solution

South Dakota State Roundup

Published May 1, 2005  | May 2005 issue

A drought is slowly drying up the source of water for the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Missouri River system, is working on a plan that would fix the problem. However, the Corps wants to wait on its decision until later in the spring, when drought conditions and river level projections become more certain.

This touched off a controversy among tribal officials and politicians who want to act on the problem sooner. The Cheyenne River Sioux are worried their water intake will be silted up. One proposal would move the tribe's intake farther up the Cheyenne River, where it is deeper, while another proposal would move the intake all the way to the Missouri River. The latter option has a projected cost of $76 million.

Many in the tribe prefer the more ambitious Missouri River project because it would deal better with the long-term effects of drought. At the current intake location, the Cheyenne River is predicted to have silted up by 2011.

Joe Mahon