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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Spring 2002 arrow South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska: Transfer of Federal Land and the Operation of Missouri River Dams and Reservoirs
South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska: Transfer of Federal Land and the Operation of Missouri River Dams and Reservoirs

Agency: Army Corps of Engineers
Erosion, vandalism, and recreational development from the Federal operation of dams and reservoirs along the Missouri River in several plains States are threatening historic properties including prehistoric fortified village sites, historic and prehistoric cemeteries and burial mounds with hundreds of human graves, and sites visited by Lewis and Clark. Members of the public and many Indian tribes, some with reservations adjacent to the Missouri River, have expressed concerns about these effects and the transfer out of Federal ownership of some Corps land in South Dakota that contains many historic properties.

The Omaha District, Army Corps of Engineers operate six multi-functional dam and reservoir projects along the main stem of the Missouri River in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The six projects are operated as a system, providing hydroelectric power, flood control, water supply, and recreation.

Collectively, the six reservoirs have about 6,000 miles of shoreline and are adjacent to or within the exterior boundaries of several Indian reservations, including the Three Affiliated Tribes, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, and Fort Peck Tribes.

Widespread erosion from the Corps’ operation of the reservoirs, recreation development, vandalism, and other factors have threatened many of the thousands of historic properties documented on Corps lands. Historic properties include intact prehistoric sites such as fortified village sites, campsites, prehistoric and historic cemeteries and burial mounds with hundreds of human graves, historic fort and battle sites, sites visited by Lewis and Clark and other early explorers, and many sites of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes.

The issue of how the Corps should address these devastating effects is generating much attention. The subject is expected to lead the June 4, 2002, Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Department of Defense and the preservation of sacred lands. In addition, ACHP will hold a public hearing in South Dakota June 12, 2002, on the Corps’ consideration of Missouri River Mainstem System historic properties.

Finally, in response to the Corps’ Missouri River Master Manual Update Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Indian tribes, State Historic Preservation Officers, preservation groups, and the public have expressed concerns about current and proposed operations of the Mainstem System on sacred lands and historic properties of the Missouri River.

In February 2002, the initial 16,000 acres of Corps recreation areas and related lands were transferred to the State of South Dakota and two Indian tribes, subject to the continued application of the National Historic Preservation Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The eventual transfer of 91,500 acres of Corps lands was congressionally mandated through Title VI of the Water Resources Development Act.

Recently, the Corps has taken initial steps toward consulting on a Programmatic Agreement for the transferred Title VI lands, even while some Indian tribes and others continue to oppose the transfer through further legal action. ACHP will work closely with the Corps, Indian tribes, and other consulting parties on the agreement.

Staff contact: Margie Nowick

Posted June 6, 2002

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