BISMARCK – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) member and Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Water, praised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) today for rescinding guidance on surplus water agreements and releasing instructions aimed at improving internal processes for reviewing requests for water supply withdrawals.

“Every day, the federal bureaucracy seeks to grow its size, influence, authority, and footprint. Refreshingly, the Army Corps is taking another step in the opposite direction,” said Senator Cramer. “I’ve been working with General Spellmon and members of the Trump Administration to limit the federal government’s control of local water issues, and I am thankful we are making progress. Today’s announcement rescinds onerous policy guidance and streamlines the permit process. It’s positive news. I appreciate General Spellmon’s follow through and I look forward to working with the Corps on further improvements.”

Earlier this year, Senator Cramer met with Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon ahead of his confirmation as the Army's 55th Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the USACE. Following the meeting, Senator Cramer sent Gen. Spellmon a letter requesting he clarify USACE policy on western state water rights. Gen. Spellmon correctly acknowledged state water allocation rights and committed to making the improvements announced today. Read Gen. Spellmon’s response, his rescission of Real Estate Policy Guidance #26, and his subsequent instruction memo here.

This announcement follows Senator Cramer’s efforts to limit the bureaucracy’s footprint on water supply policy. Last September, Senator Cramer led a successful bipartisan effort to halt the USACE’s Water Supply Rule, which President Trump subsequently withdrew. Senator Cramer has actively worked with the Western Governors Association and the Conference of Western Attorneys General on each of these actions. 

“This is a huge step in the right direction to restore full access to the Missouri River to the people of North Dakota for beneficial use. It remains to be seen how the Corps will move forward from here,” said Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota Attorney General and Chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General. “These are very complex technical and legal issues, and my staff as well as the State Engineer’s office have continued to engage with the Corps, as well as with Senator Kevin Cramer, to resolve the problems created by the Corps’ reservoirs. I am cautiously optimistic that remaining issues with reservoir management and water supply access can be similarly resolved without the need for litigation, and I thank Senator Cramer for all his efforts on this issue.”

“Western Governors applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to rescind its Policy Guidance Letter No. 26, which contained policies that conflicted with state laws and threatened states’ well-established legal authority over their water resources,” said Jim Ogsbury, Western Governors' Association Executive Director. “Western Governors commend members of the Congressional delegations of the States of North Dakota and South Dakota for their longstanding efforts on Missouri River issues and thank Senator Cramer for his leadership in resolving this vital western water issue.  We look forward to working with the Corps to ensure that all Corps reservoirs are operated in compliance with state law.”