Montana Governor Boycotts Flood Meetings Over Lack Of Concern Over Fishing Interests

If Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, whose state is one of 8 through which the Missouri River flows through but the only one of the eight not to experience any major flooding this year, were boycotting the meeting of Missouri River governors only because it’s not open to the media I could understand that. Openness and transparency are paramount.

But when he says he’s boycotting because the other governors aren’t worried enough about fishing interests, that shows a flabbergasting lack of regard for the victims of flooding.

OMAHA, Nebraska, August 22, 2011 (ENS) – The leaders of seven states along the Missouri River Friday agreed to pursue an independent, external review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ management of the river system leading to this year’s historic flooding.

The seven governors or their representatives met in Omaha with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to discuss flood control issues. …

The eighth Missouri River governor, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, was scheduled to attend the meeting but did not show up. Schweitzer told The Associated Press he is “frustrated” that downriver governors want to focus solely on flood mitigation and navigation, excluding water needs for recreation and wildlife that improve Montana’s economy.

Schweitzer also objected to the decision to close the meeting to the press.

U.S. Army Corps Brigadier Gen. John McMahon attended the meeting and briefed the state leaders on the river system’s management.

Maybe these other governors aren’t as worried about what amount to, quite frankly, tourism issues because the billions of dollars spent building and maintaining the Missouri River reservoir system was flood protection and river navigation. The tourism is a side effect, and one that’s not necessarily unimportant in these other states (Lake Sakajawea is a very important tourism destination in North Dakota), but it cannot be a primary consideration.

Schweitzer can be callous about flood concerns, perhaps, because tens of thousands of his constituents didn’t have their property damaged and their lives thrown into upheaval by flood waters. But his callousness could very well derail good policy, which is the interstate compact for Missouri River management which has been proposed by North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple.

The compact would need to be unanimous among the states to work, and Schweitzer could be the fly in the ointment. Which is unfortunate, because an interstate compact would, quite frankly, give his voice on Montana’s concerns much more authority than it does now with the Army Corps of Engineers.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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