1975 Supporters Fight Back
In late 1974, at the suggestion of Senator George McGovern, business promoters, construction contractors, heavy equippment interests, bankers and farmers created "Friends of Oahe" as a public organization to counter United Family Farmers. During 1975, Friends of Oahe and other Oahe supporters agressively battled UFF by funding promotional advertisements, opposing UFF-backed measures in the South Dakota legislature, and promoting Oahe in Washington, DC. Oahe supporters finally understood they needed an organization other than the Bureau of Reclamation and the Oahe Conservancy Sub-district to defend Oahe, and the political dispute over Oahe quickly escalated into a bitter struggle that was especially contentious in the Oahe sub-district area, but it was felt throughout the entire state.
The South Dakota legislature became an Oahe battleground, with United Family Farmers lobbying for several anti-project bills, but Friends of Oahe blocked every UFF-backed measure. South Dakota Governor Kneip traveled to Washington and testified before Congress, claiming Oahe would transform the James River valley into “an abundant garden”. UFF retaliated, renting a large plane and flying 200 UFF members to Washington to lobby against construction appropriations. Kneip, Holum , McGovern and others successfully convinced Congress to invest more money into Oahe, and the Bureau of Reclamation received $7.25 million for 1976 project construction. Oahe supporters in South Dakota were ecstatic. They had thwarted the upstart farmer populists. The largest project in the history of South Dakota was moving ahead, and the future looked bright. No federal irrigation project in the long history of the Bureau of Reclamation had ever been stopped once construction had commenced.