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Janklow Warns Unfettered Power Causes Incompetence

Did his lawyer float that defense at the trial?

I can only imagine what fun it would have been to blog during the long rein of Bill Janklow. The former South Dakota governor is a rhetorical gold mine, even in judicially-induced quasi-retirement. This week, Janklow tells KELO the Army Corps of Engineers is still a bunch of nincompoops:

To Janklow, the Army Corps of Engineers is a bureaucracy running on arrogance, instead of competence.

"When you have any governmental agency in a democracy that has unfettered power, they become inept, they become incompetent, because they don't care," Janklow said [Perry Groten, "Not Afraid to Take Corps to Court Again,", 2011.06.08].

I suspect I'm not the only South Dakotan who senses the immense irony of Bill Janklow decrying unfettered power.


  1. Guy 2011.06.09

    No one is to blame for the Mighty Missouri's deluge this year except the Mighty Missouri itself. It will continue to do as it pleases. When God creates a system and we mess with that system (placing dams on a natural river) and His natural forces (unexpected heavy rains) mix with His system, the result is something we can not plan for nor control. This widespread flood reminds man of his mortality and that man does not control the Earth.

  2. Guy 2011.06.09

    ...And you, Bill Janklow, are but a mere man like the rest of us. . .

  3. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Beware redstaters blaming the Corps. Any statement from Republicans, especially one whose reign was laden with concessions that have led to the fascistification of South Dakota.

    The flood is a political disaster, not a natural one. All the evidence points at plotting House Republicans.

  4. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Witness Doc Blanchard's blog post today. The earth haters are controlling the message. Be very afraid.

  5. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    btw, Cory: you read my mind this morning; will follow up.

  6. Irrelevant Curmudgeon 2011.06.09

    I gotta side with the guy below on this one... I, too, read the Corps' Master Manual and this event quite literally went "by the book." On the ground, we're talking about professional engineers - not political masterminds - and they're not just making this up as they go. They know how much water they have here and there, they know how long it takes to get from here to there, they even know how much will evaporate on the way. They write that stuff down and keep it somewhere. The Corps was precisely prepared for this spring as any other spring.

    ...It just didn't go like any other spring. Lessons will be learned and Manuals updated but I'm not comfortable calling the guy who cranks open gates knowing precisely how many homes will flood, "arrogant."

  7. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    This event has Mike Johanns' fingerprints all over it.

  8. Irrelevant Curmudgeon 2011.06.09

    ... well then let's get him! And destroy his infernal rain machine!

  9. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Identify yourself, ic, or get the hell out of the way.

  10. Irrelevant Curmudgeon 2011.06.09

    I am Adam Ellsworth. I don't talk much here, but I like numbers and formulas, and the Corps writes down a lot of both. But, I shall defer to your concerns about beetles in Colorado.

  11. Chris S. 2011.06.09

    @larry kurtz

    "Identify yourself, ic, or get the hell out of the way."

    Really? That's what it's come to here now? Cyber-yelling at people who prefer to use pseudonyms online? Is that Cory's policy, or someone else wanting to dictate the terms of discussion on his blog?

  12. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Thank you, Mr. Ellsworth. Runoff due to beetle kill is one element missing from the Master Manual. My argument includes additional Colorado and Wyoming inflows to Lake McConaughy in Nebraska.

  13. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Chris S: Consider self-administering 150mg. Demerol with a plastic bag over your head.

  14. Bruce C. Boatwright 2011.06.09

    "arrogant" is building on a potential flood plain in the first place, or would that be "ignorant"


  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.06.09

    Larry makes a reasonable point about how some deep ecological connections may play a role in high water. Curmudgeonly Adam will find agreement for his position from journalist Bob Mercer and environmental expert Michael Melius.

    [And hey, I'll handle recognizing and deleting commenters. ;-) ]

  16. Chris S. 2011.06.09

    Thanks Larry. Classy all the way.

  17. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Care to add something to Cory's post on Janklow's finger-pointing, Chris?

  18. Erin 2011.06.09

    Advising someone to commit suicide is really over the line, Larry. That's one of the most repulsive things I've read on a blog in a long time.

  19. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    Sorry you feel that way, Erin. Bicycle cable is very effective, too.

  20. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    This whole thread is a teaching moment to renew interest in Cap and Trade legislation as it brings shock and awe to the discussion. We are committing suicide by Earth and blaming nature for our mistakes.

  21. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    The wildfires in Arizona have created an area of high pressure so massive that it is stalling moisture-laden low pressure right over the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains exacerbating human-caused human misery.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.06.09

    Dang it, Larry! Couldn't you have just said, "The disasters we face are largely of our own making, and we must stop killing the planet and killing ourselves"? There are lots of smart people in the comment section here, but very few speak the metaphorical language of the Tamarians as fluently as you. Even fiery-tongued I can recognize that telling a fellow taveler to commit suicide and then responding to my wife's criticism with a glib comment about bicycle wire isn't exactly driving interest in a discussion about cap and trade (which, yes, would be a heck of a good idea).

    Back to the point: I agree whole-heartedly that Janklow and various river folks with no flood insurance are going to want to blame someone for their misfortune. Uncle Sam is an easy scapegoat. But on a weird meta level, the ironic arrogance with which Janklow makes his comment about unfettered power is a metaphor for the inability of the whole society to see the broad blame we can lay on agriculture, land management, forest management, business practices (feel free to add to the list!) for why there's so much water where we don't want it. Our common enemy is ourselves (dang: more meta-meaning to the tone of this conversation!).

    That's the explanation and the mega-connection the common man needs to grok. Larry, just for you, I'll say it this way: Janklow at Dakota Dunes.

  23. Roger Elgersma 2011.06.09

    Bill ran over people for a long time. He just finally got caught.

  24. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    The beast at Tanagra.

    Mirab, with sails unfurled.

  25. kwn 2011.06.09

    Larry - you seem to like to "take it too far". Get a life man. Really.

  26. Joseph G Thompson 2011.06.09

    Your posts and political views would sometimes drive me absolutely crazy if I did not understand the GI brats sense of humor and desire to irratate people. Your Daddy did a fine job with you and the Chief would be very pleased that he raised a son that does not beat around the bush, but beats the bush.
    Joseph G Thompson

  27. Joseph G Thompson 2011.06.09

    Should have reviewed before I posted, I should not have said beat the bush, cause I know you are gonna use it.
    Joseph G Thompson

  28. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    The river Temarc in winter! Zinda, his face black, his eyes red! Kiazi's children, their faces wet. Kadir beneath Mo Moteh. Shaka, when the walls fell.

  29. Joseph G Thompson 2011.06.09

    I have problems with english don't write in Tamarian. I promise not to provide anymore insight on you if you won't write Tamarian. OK?
    Joseph G Thompson

  30. larry kurtz 2011.06.09

    It's always good to hear from you, Mr. Thompson. Temba, his arms wide.

  31. Wayne B. 2011.06.10

    When South Dakota Midday had the Corps folks on, didn't they mention how the last change to the master manual took 30 years to complete?

    I don't know how much we can blame any one entity (red states, governors, pine beetles, etc.) when everyone has their hand in the cookier jar.

    The ACE is responsible for maintaining a complex system, trying to placate the many wants and needs of the largest river system in the US. I don't envy them that task. I'm not a Daugaard apologist, but I'll give the man credit for not passing blame to the Corps.

  32. larry kurtz 2011.06.10

    "Yet", Wayne.

    This flooding event is already a political issue; expect the ejecta to hit the fan soon. As Commander-in-Chief, the President will have to answer to the charges from those anxious to advance the GOP agenda into the primaries. The signals are clear; that's why Democrats have to get ahead of the message and determine how the downstream Republicans are at least as responsible as the Corps is.

    Mark my words: the crime originated in DC, but was committed in Omaha.

  33. TCMack 2011.06.10


    Is your last line referencing the Pick-Sloan Plan as the "crime"? That damming the river in the first place was wrong? On other note I would like to point out two issues. Janklow during the 1980s was always hated the Corps so this comment is not new news. He complained then and he is complaining now. So that is no new news. Finally, I would like to ask Wayne has he ever seen the Master Manual? That thing is huge. I went to a couple of listening sessions on the new revisions of the manual. They had copies of the Manual for people to take home. The copies were huge I think the only thing that I have seen that was bigger was the federal budget. I do not see need for Daugaard to criticize the Corps anyway, because Rounds and Janklow are taking the point on the issue. While the former governors take shots at the Corps, it allows Daugaard to be the guy that is worrying about his citizens.

  34. Wayne B. 2011.06.10


    I've never laid eyes upon the master manual. I understand it's the guiding document by which the Corps manages the river system to serve flood management, water supply, agricultural, recreational, and conservational needs. There's also power generation, barge traffic, and a plethora of other things.

    I understand the manual is huge, complex, and very difficult & time consuming to change. Because the Corps is required to follow that manual, my argument is it's tough to blame them for following the policies enumerated in it, which was crafted with input from all those interests, including the states.

  35. larry kurtz 2011.06.10

    TC: Would you, please, go here and tell Montanans what you know? Copy and paste your comments from your own blog if that is easier.

    Thank you.

  36. Douglas Wiken 2011.06.10

    How long have the flow amounts from the floodgates on the dams been known? Has this been a huge secret? The system was designed with historical flows in mind or there would not have been the flow volume designed in.

    That information should have led to maps which clearly indicated "DO NOT BUILD HERE" in potential flood areas.

    We now have the maps on the ground. The only money going in from here on should be to assist in moving homes out of the flooded areas or raising them above the flood levels. Otherwise, all the money and discussion on this is literally water under the dam.

  37. michael melius 2011.06.16

    Former Gov. Bill Janklow is a private citizen now. He's free to say whatever he pleases, and nobody in South Dakota has to listen to him. Considering his history, I think he should carry himself in public with an extra helping of humility. He doesn't get to bully and bluster his way through a public debate anymore.

    Janklow's been speaking out on Missouri River management, and it's vintage Janklow: angry, long-winded, lots of unfinished sentences. He began his Kelo-TV interview, available online, by grossly misstating storage capacities for the Oahe and Gavins Point reservoirs. These are basic numbers for the river system's management, an old river hand like Janklow should know them. Can we trust anything he says, after such authoritative misstatements?

    In his SD public radio interview, he used an old Janklow ploy, pre-insulting anyone who would disagree with him. He said, "You have to be pretty slow witted not to understand that we had a huge snowpack in the mountains this past winter."

    He based that claim on news reports of the storms.

    The Corps of Engineers needs real data, not news stories, to guide its management. Their data, also available online, show snowpack in the upper Missouri basin was about 10-20% above normal last winter, not outrageous or unprecedented. There was plenty of room in the flood pools for that.

    In the nearly 40 minutes of the two interviews Janklow never specified what the Corps did wrong, nor what it should have done differently.

    In the SD public radio interview, he all but admits the Corps met their legal requirement for storage in the reservoirs on March 1. No fair or honest assessment could find fault with them before that date.

    March and April brought just average precipitation to the upper river, while the lower river, including the Mississippi, were high and getting higher. Under those conditions, with room in the pools, of course the Corps is going to hold back water! That's exactly how the system is designed.

    Then Janklow all but ignores the rains of May, except as proof in hindsight that the Corps should have released more water earlier. I'd estimate nearly 40 million acre feet of rain fell in two weeks in the western Dakotas and eastern MT, in downpours and all-day rains. There's a lot of buttes and badlands in that country, it sheds water freely, and even prairie and wheatfield can only hold so much before they too send each new rain straight downstream. That's when the flood began.

    If anything, it looks like the system functioned pretty much as designed, holding back water for as long as possible before letting it out in a controlled flood. If there's a flaw in the design, it's that the March 1 storage target is too high, leaving not enough room at the top of the dams for extremely wet springs like this year and 1997. Lowering that target would take an act of Congress, but it would be simple and effective, with no new engineering or building necessary.

  38. michael melius 2011.06.20

    Janklow claims this flood is man-made, blaming the Corps. That is a crucial factor in insurance claims, I would imagine. So I wonder what BJ thinks about FEMA's determination that the flood is natural and insurance applies:

    So, if homeowners side with Janklow, they should be glad to forego insurance claims. Have I got the illogic right?

    Bill Janklow, all over the map at 100 mph.

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