DOJ: News Release

McGrath Urges High Court to Accept Missouri River Case

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court Tuesday, urging the high court to accept a case addressing the allocation of Missouri River waters to upstream and downstream states. McGrath’s brief came in support of a petition filed by North Dakota and South Dakota.

“This is the latest in a long history of disputes about the handling of water resources along the Missouri,” McGrath said. “We believe review by the Supreme Court is necessary so the concerns of smaller, upstream states like Montana and the Dakotas are given the same significance as those of as larger, downstream states.”

McGrath argues that the 8th Circuit Court – headquartered in St. Louis – incorrectly held that barge traffic and other commercial uses can be given a priority over agricultural and recreational uses in the upstream states. The brief notes that even the Army Corps of Engineers – the federal entity charged with managing the river – acknowledges that all uses of the Missouri River system deserve equal consideration.

McGrath’s brief also says that the Flood Control Act of 1944 requires all river uses to be treated equally. The act is the federal law that authorizes the management of the river.

“This is particularly important in drought years,” McGrath said. “The Corps has been playing favorites for too long.”

The Missouri River flows more than 2,300 miles from its headwaters near Three Forks to St. Louis, with about 400 miles running through Montana. The Fort Peck Dam is one of six dams and reservoirs in the Missouri River system managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. In recent years drought conditions have substantially reduced water levels at Fort Peck Reservoir

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