1976 United Family Farmers Control Sub-district
The local elections for director seats on the Oahe Conservancy Sub-district board were fiercely contested in 1976, with candidates recruited by United Family Farmers competing against incumbents supported with funding and campaign assistance provided by Friends of Oahe. UFF hired Curt Hohn, a former aide to Senator George McGovern, to manage the election campaigns, and it also created an election committee to fundraise, and shape and implement campaign strategies. Despite warnings by Senator McGovern, Hohn and UFF outperformed Oahe supporters, and when the votes were counted project opponents controlled the sub-district board by a slender 6 to 5 margin. This development stunned the political and business establishment in South Dakota.
The November, 1976 sub-district election results stunned the state’s political and business establishment, revealing how they had underestimated United Family Farmers and project opposition. Although the election results were historic, installing for the first time a board majority that opposed the Oahe project, the Bureau of Reclamation marched ahead with work on the massive Pierre Canal and the project’s large pump facility, and sped up condemnation proceedings against landowners along canal routes and new reservoir areas. Despite the project’s rapidly increasing opposition and the momentous sub-district elections, the Bureau of Reclamation was rewarded by Congress with a $19 million construction appropriation for 1977.