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Corps approves first surplus water supply agreement for Lake Sakakawea

Published Feb. 7, 2013

OMAHA, Neb. – The first Surplus Water Agreement, authorized by Section 6 of the 1944 Flood Control Act, allowing the temporary withdrawal of water from Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, was signed by the Omaha District Commander Col. Joel R. Cross late yesterday evening.   

For the purposes of the Section 6 authority, surplus water is defined as water stored in a Corps of Engineers reservoir that is not required because the authorized need for the water never developed.  In this case, the water in question is water originally intended for irrigation. 

The agreement allows International Western of Southlake, Texas to withdraw surplus water from Lake Sakakawea at a site referred to as the Thompson site, located in Williams County, N.D. This site is one of three sites that the company identified for withdrawal of water from the lake.  International Western will not be charged for the withdrawal of surplus water under this agreement, since rulemaking to determine a nationwide pricing methodology for surplus water is ongoing.  Therefore, the fee for withdrawing surplus water has been waived until rulemaking is complete. Easement fees, which are a normal part of the application process, were assessed. 

The surplus water agreement and easement will be in place for five years, with the option to renew for an additional five-year period. If rulemaking is completed prior to the end of the five year term, International Western has agreed to cease withdrawal of surplus water or execute an Agreement Modification, which would include the payment of any monetary consideration required by rulemaking. 

The outstanding applications for surplus water agreements in North Dakota will be processed in the order in which completed applications are received. Individuals still interested in entering into a Surplus Water Agreement must complete the application process. 


In May 2012, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works acknowledged the finding in the Garrison Dam/Lake Sakakawea Surplus Water Report that there is100,000 acre-feet of surplus water at Lake Sakakawea, but declined to calculate a charge for surplus water without more input from all interested stakeholders.  Therefore, she directed the Corps to immediately pursue notice and comment rulemaking in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act to establish a nationwide policy for surplus water uses under Section 6.  The rulemaking process is used by executive agencies to promulgate formal rules.  The process allows the Corps to develop a pricing methodology, inform the public about the recommended methodology, allow time for public comment and agency response to the proposal and provide time for any revisions before a potential formal pricing method is set in place. 

On Dec. 5, 2012, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified the Omaha District that the Section 6 Surplus Water Agreement with International Western Company of Southlake, Texas, had been approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. Section 6 authorizes the Corps to allow the withdrawal of surplus water from Corps reservoirs on a short-term basis. 

The Omaha District is authorizing withdrawals under the Section 6 authority pending the completion of a permanent Reallocation Study required by the Water Supply Act of 1958.  At that time, users who require a long-term use of water will enter into agreements under that authority. 

Additionally, the Corps is in the process of completing the final surplus water reports for each of the Missouri River mainstem projects. The draft studies were released to the public for comment in August 2012. The final surplus water reports are expected to be complete sometime during the first half of the 2013 calendar year.

Monique Farmer

Release no. 20130207-001