The Missouri Basin and the Pick/Sloan Plan

William Sloan and Major General Lewis A. Pick

The Pick/Sloan Plan

The Pick/Sloan Plan was a compromise between two competing governmental agencies, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Each prepared plans for the multiple-purpose management of water throughout the Missouri Basin. The Corps' Missouri River Division Engineer, Colonel Lewis A. Pick, developed the Pick Plan, emphasizing navigation and flood control. William G. Sloan, Assistant Regional Director of Reclamation's Upper Missouri Region, developed the Sloan Plan, emphasizing irrigation for economic stability and hydroelectric power for economic growth. Although there was rivalry between these agencies, the plans complemented each other and Congress approved the plan.

The result was the Missouri River Basin Project, authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944, at a time when there was a significant effort to encourage people to return to the great plains. The project envisioned a comprehensive system of flood control, navigation improvement, irrigation, municipal and industrial water supply, and hydroelectric generation facilities for the 10 states in the Missouri River Basin. As originally planned, the project was to include 213 single and multiple-use projects providing 1.1 million kilowatts of hydroelectric capacity and irrigation for 5.3 million acres of farmland. Six mainstem Missouri River dams were constructed at a cost of $1.2 billion. By 1987 the Corps of Engineers estimated that over $2.7 billion in flood damage had been prevented by them.

The last of the mainstem Missouri River dams came into operation in 1964, yielding a total storage capacity of over 75 million acre-feet. That is, enough water to cover over 117,000 square miles to a depth of one foot).