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Published November 09, 2009, 06:55 AM

Ranchers: Livestock not destroying dams

Ranchers grazing cattle near two dams in northwestern North Dakota say livestock are being unfairly blamed for water quality problems.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Ranchers grazing cattle near two dams in northwestern North Dakota say livestock are being unfairly blamed for water quality problems.

Don Anderson and Curt Severson graze cattle along Sather Dam. Tim Leland works a ranch with his father and uncle near Leland Dam. Both dams are south of Alexander, built during the 1960s.

The state Game and Fish Department worries about runoff from feedlots carrying manure. Sather Dam has algae problems linked to poor water quality.

“I don’t own a feedlot. I don’t have a feedlot,” Anderson said of his main operation east of Sather Dam. “We do feed cattle there, but it is all spread out in a large acreage.”

Curt Severson said he grazes cattle on Forest Service land on the west side of Sather Dam and farther south of Anderson.

“I don’t think it is a livestock issue myself,” Severson said. “I think every dam in North Dakota has the same issue, whether there is livestock there or not.”

The three ranchers and other members of the McKenzie County Grazing Association joined Forest Service representatives recently in a meeting with state Game and Fish Department fisheries supervisor Fred Ryckman.

The natural lifespan of a lake and runoff from the terrain also are factors in causing water quality problems, Anderson said.

“The livestock get a black eye at times that we don’t deserve,” he said.

Leland Dam is about eight miles south of Sather Dam. Tim Leland said Chicken Creek drains in from the east and Sheep Creek drains in from the northeast.

“There isn’t a feedlot that exists on either one of them,” Leland said of the drainage.

Forest Service district planner Libby Knotts said the agency wants to resolve the issue before updating the overall grasslands management plan for the area.

Ryckman said there is no dispute about protecting the dams. “It is just a matter of finding the right way for it to be done,” he said.

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