Members of a multi-state group that coordinates among federal, state and local authorities over Missouri River issues will meet this week in North Dakota. Mike Hayden, executive director of the Missouri River Organization of States and Tribes, or MORAST , says there’s one menacing topic before the panel.

“The drought will be a real question, about how much water is in storage and what do we do next year if the drought persists,” Hayden says. Some member states oppose a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to market what it calls “surplus” water in the region.

The states of Iowa and Nebraska left MORAST over strong disagreements about management of the Missouri River during last year’s historic flooding. “We’re certainly interested and want to see both Iowa and Nebraska return to the table,” Hayden says.

“I’m hopeful they will. I think we need to let this fall’s elections pass. Once that’s over, maybe we’ll have a clearer picture.” The group now includes representatives from Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas. MORAST is meeting tomorrow and Friday in Bismarck, North Dakota.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton