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Summary of North Dakota History - Garrison Diversion

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In like manner, Missouri River diversion has remained a potent political issue. The Garrison Diversion plan, authorized by Congress in 1968, entered construction, but by 1976 was stalled by court challenges based on its environmental impacts; even though many leaders strongly backed the plan, landowners, environmental groups, and Canadian officials asserted that the negative effects far outweighed any benefits. A compromise between these interests was hammered out in 1986; construction of a greatly-reduced project has continued, but even that remains under attack from agricultural and environmental groups. For many longtime backers of the project, the primary issue became North Dakota's ability to obtain some benefits in return for the destruction of Missouri River bottomland by the Garrison Reservoir. Conceived as a project to combine municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses for the water, the project has been substantially modified; presently plans call for delivery of Missouri River water to the Red River, Indian Municipal, Rural and Industrial (MR&I) water funding, and an increase in the statewide MR&I water fund to help deliver water to cities and towns throughout southwestern and northwestern North Dakota. For most state residents, the most obvious benefit from years of planning and effort are the recreational uses of Lake Sakakawea.

Cruiser Boat on Lake Sakakawea, 1970
Cruiser Boat on Lake Sakakawea, 1970. State Archives #TC2045

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