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Potomac Books


Uphill against Water, Uphill against Water, 0803214960, 0-8032-1496-0, 978-0-8032-1496-5, 9780803214965, Peter Carrels, Our Sustainable Future, Uphill against Water, 080326397X, 0-8032-6397-X, 978-0-8032-6397-0, 9780803263970, Peter Carrels, Our Sustainable Futur

Uphill against Water
The Great Dakota Water War
Peter Carrels

1999. 247 pp.
Illus., maps
Out of Print
1999. 247 pp.
Illus., maps
$26.95 s

In Uphill against Water, Peter Carrels examines the history of Missouri River water development projects in general and describes the struggle over one of the largest of those projects, South Dakota’s Oahe irrigation project, in detail. Opposition to the Oahe project was intense and well organized. After four years of bitter competition, an energetic and resourceful grassroots group, United Family Farmers, wrested control of the Oahe conservancy district board, a government agency that had been an ardent supporter of the irrigation project. That political triumph led to the only victory in the West by a grassroots group over the Bureau of Reclamation and the irrigation and business establishment.

Peter Carrels is a writer in Aberdeen, South Dakota. His writing about Missouri River issues and history has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books.

"A fascinating retelling of one of the most turbulent debates ever to face the state of South Dakota."—Senator Tom Daschle

"Fascinating. Carrels, who is a native and resident of Aberdeen, S.D., writes with spare restraint that reflects the landscape he grew up in. Nevertheless, the story he tells, and tells very well, is shocking."—Ed Marston, publisher, High Country News

"Superb chronicle . . . meticulously researched, well written, and somewhat surprisingly for a book of this type, very entertaining. His account of United Family Farmers’ ultimate success in halting the [Oahe] project is a first-class piece of reporting that should be on the recommended reading list of every grass roots organizer."—Roger Holtzmann, South Dakota Magazine

"Carrels states [that] he set out to write a book about a gritty group of farmers. He accomplished that and a lot more. Issues of water usage, the power of grassroots democracy, the pros and cons of big government, environmental ethics, honesty, and man’s attempt to control nature are woven into an intricate and intriguing story."—Patricia Ann Owens, South Dakota History

"A succinct and highly readable analysis of how this tale played out in South Dakota. Fine reading for anyone interested in water use and management in the Dakotas, in the environmental issues pertaining to large scale-water projects, or in the Missouri River in particular."—North Dakota History

"Carrels has written a gripping story that highlights the local and human aspects of many of the larger issues related to democracy and water development in the West."—Gerhard J. Ens, Western Historical Quarterly

"An illuminating study of local resistance to a huge federal water project. Carrels holds that Oahe 'is the only federal reclamation project that was halted while under construction,' and he does a fine job of telling just how this came to pass."—Kirkus

"A must read for those interested in community activism, grassroots political movements, and the conflict between the power of government and ordinary citizens."—Choice

"Important reading for students of South Dakota history."—Annals of Wyoming

"A valuable addition to the literature on 20th-century water development in the western United States."—Journal of the West

"Today’s talk show hosts, editors, and even historians often mourn for the heroes of yesteryear. But those who say modern society has deteriorated into a crowd of cowards and crooks don’t know Peter Carrels. Nor do they know the South Dakotans in this gripping history of an important Great Plains war over water. Ordinary citizens—farmers, mostly—chose to resist a poorly conceived water development plan—an action demanding not the courage of an impetuous instant but years of smart and wholly legal battle. Carrels’s history has much to teach all of us. I wish I could place a copy of this book in the hands of every voter in South Dakota. And then every voter in the West."—Linda M. Hasselstrom, author of Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land

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Stephanie Foote,
Journal Editor