New Leadership

Newly elected Governor William Janklow zealously championed South Dakota’s right to Missouri River-based water development.  Governor Janklow believed his state’s land sacrifice to Missouri River’s dams and reservoirs obligated the federal government to compensate South Dakota in the form of irrigation and other major water projects, and he worked to first save the entire Oahe project, and later he tried to salvage constructed features of the Oahe project to be used in a highly speculative irrigation project called Cendak.


President Carter had sought not only to reduce the "porkbarrel" mentality that too often characterized water development but he also wanted to identify publicly acceptable and genuinely needed projects.

As President Carter and the Oahe Sub-district continued to weaken the Oahe project and identify alternative water development projects, Governor Janklow and others worked to rescue large-scale irrigation development in the Oahe Sub-district. With that objective in mind, the Governor and other Oahe proponents sought to diminish the authority and influence of the Sub-district board by employing several political and legal strategies, each of which failed. Then the Governor focused on developing a new irrigation concept named Cendak (short for Central Dakota). The Cendak project would utilize features of the Oahe project that had already been started, including the project’s pump house, the Blunt reservoir and the Pierre Canal. As proposed, Cendak would serve lands in the southern area of the Sub-district, where United Family Farmers was less influential. Janklow also supported a plan –called Garrison Extension- to deliver excess and previously used flows (called return flows) from North Dakota’s yet unbuilt Garrison irrigation project down the James River into South Dakota for irrigation. This proposal ignored irrigation’s lack of support in the James River valley, and also ignored scientific study indicating that soils there were unsuitable for irrigation. Interest in this project rightfully faded. Cendak also lacked favorable soil studies and scientific review, and eventually interest in it waned, as well.

Use it or lose it

Commercial and economic development boosters across the West often resorted to catchy phrases to stimulate public interest. In the 1800s there’d been the baseless but effective “rain follows the plow” slogan. More recently a popular slogan was “Use it or Lose it.” This phrase took advantage of the fear felt by residents living in the rural West regarding cities and populous regions taking control over water resources. South Dakotans were often reminded by Oahe proponents that if South Dakota didn’t use the water in Missouri River reservoirs, politicians in Texas, Colorado or California would build projects that moved this water away from South Dakota. The translation was simple: If South Dakota didn’t put the water to use, someone else would. Oahe proponents viewed United Family Farmers as not only trying to stop Oahe, but allowing Missouri River water to be taken away and used by non-South Dakotans. It was a tactic meant to promote acceptance and construction of big water projects in South Dakota, especially the Oahe irrigation project.

Janklow questions authority of Oahe board

As Attorney General, William Janklow had sought to weaken the political influence of the Oahe Conservancy Sub-district board because that board opposed the Oahe irrigation project.

Oahe de-authorization introduced in Congress

In 1979, Congressman Berkley Bedell, representing northwest Iowa and working closely with United Family Farmers and the Oahe Conservancy Sub-district, introduced legislation to de-authorize the Oahe project. Bedell, owner of a large fishing tackle business, was considered a leading conservationist in Congress.

SD leaders criticize Iowan

South Dakota public officials, especially Governor William Janklow, harshly criticized Iowa Congressman Berkley Bedell for introducing Oahe de-authorization legislation.

Governor Janklow and the Sub-district shuffle

This letter from newly elected South Dakota Governor William Janklow to the President of United Family Farmers reveals how the State of South Dakota shifted its official policy regarding the Oahe Conservancy Sub-district. Before UFF won control of the Sub-district board the Sub-district was clearly and frequently referenced as representing South Dakota’s position on the Oahe irrigation project. After UFF won control of the sub-district's board of directors, Oahe supporters such as Governor Janklow re-oriented their view of the sub-district. The sub-district was originally created to favor rural citizens because most Oahe project impacts and expenses would be imposed on rural residents. Governor Janklow and other Oahe supporters intentionally ignored that philosophy, and attempted to circumvent the sitting Oahe sub-district board so they could revive the Oahe irrigation project.

WEB advances

The status of the WEB water project had escalated as the project’s popularity grew and as the perceived need for the pipeline project became better understood. By 1979, WEB had established a board of directors and had secured funding sources to continue promoting and planning the water project. The United Family Farmer-controlled Oahe Conservancy Sub-district became WEB’s most important ally, providing vital seed money and organizational support. The sub-district also hired a domestic water coordinator to aid WEB and other drinking water projects. In just five years the WEB project had evolved from existing as a vague vision to possessing a formal and well-regarded organization as well as an engineering blueprint.