State funds needed to keep local projects moving

Legislators hear plans for advancing NAWS, flood protection

Jill Schramm/MDN Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton, right, asks a question as Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, chairman of the Water Topics Overview Committee, listens during a meeting in Minot Tuesday.

A legislative committee heard about Minot’s need for more money to advance the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection and Northwest Area Water Supply projects at a meeting in Minot Tuesday.

Jason Zimmerman, Souris Basin representative on the State Water Commission told the North Dakota Legislative Management’s Water Topics Overview Committee that about $44 million in state money will be needed to help complete NAWS.

State Engineer Garland Erbele said the water commission has plans to begin the construction of a pipeline toward Bottineau next year. The cost of construction from north of Minot Air Force Base to the Renville Corner at the intersection of U.S. Highway 83 and N.D. Highway 5 is about $7 million, with another $6.7 million needed to reach Westhope. Depending on availability of $8 million more, the pipeline could be extended to Bottineau. The state pays 65 percent of project costs, with local funds coming from Minot’s city sales tax for NAWS.

Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Willow City, noted Bottineau’s water treatment plant is in ill repair and may need to be rebuilt in three years unless an alternate water supply becomes available.

“We have to keep pushing on this to get those guys water because the whole topic of conversation here is to regionalize our water systems, and we need to get that pipe in the ground,” Anderson said. “I am really hesitant as a legislator to spend money on the Red River Water Supply when we still haven’t gotten NAWS. Let’s get it going and get it done. Then we can focus on the other project and water issue problems in the eastern part of the state.”

Jill Schramm/MDN State Engineer Garland Erbele speaks to the Water Topics Overview Committee Tuesday.

Erbele said Minot will have the extra water capacity to provide water to the northern communities and All Seasons Water Users District with its new Sundre pipeline and water plant expansion.

The new line from the Sundre well uses 7.5 miles of a pipeline built in the early 2000s to carry water from Lake Sakakawea to Minot.

Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, questioned the condition of a pipeline that’s gone unused for so many years due to an ongoing lawsuit with Manitoba over biota transfer between river basins. That lawsuit recently was resolved, but NAWS still faces a lawsuit from the state of Missouri over river depletion.

“We really don’t know what the condition of the pipe is. When we put that pipe into service, checking the integrity of it is going to be a major issue in actually starting to utilize that,” Erbele responded.

On the pipeline portion used by the city from the Sundre, there initially was a problem with pressure dropping, which turned out to be the result of an air conditioner at the well site that was sucking water off the supply line, he said.

Jill Schramm/MDN Sens. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks, and Ronald Sorvaag, R-Fargo, foreground, visit with a tour guide at the Broadway pump station under construction in Minot during a tour of the flood protection project by the Water Topics Overview Committee Monday.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will build the pre-treatment facility for NAWS water near Max, although there will be a local cost share for construction.

“The problem is they don’t have the money right now so the State Water Commission is going to front them the funding to construct that plant,” Erbele said. The cost is estimated at $70 million to $80 million. The bureau will reimburse the state through the MRI program, from which the state has been receiving about $10 million a year.

“In addition, Resource Trust Fund money is running ahead of projections, so if we have the opportunity to use some of those funds toward features of the NAWS project, we will certainly look at that also,” Erbele said.

Revenues into the trust fund need to average $11.3 million a month to meet the budget.

“We actually started out in the red. The oil industry hadn’t really come back and recovered, so through about February of this year, we were operating in the red. Since then, we have seen an uptick in oil revenue. The last four months we have actually averaged about $16.4 million,” Erbele said.

Last month, collections were about $5.3 million ahead of projection, leaving an accumulated balance so far of $30.8 million or 21.5 percent ahead of the budget estimate, he said.

“I think we have opportunities here to actually put money toward more projects. I think this is going to be a very positive thing, allowing us to do a lot more than what we had originally anticipated. We certainly want to get this money out and get moving toward construction as quickly as possible,” Erbele said.

Because the Legislature hasn’t authorized spending of the unexpected money, the water commission must make a request of the legislative Budget Section or wait for the 2019 Legislature to act.

Along with NAWS, the Minot area will be looking for state funding for flood protection in the 2019 session.

Minot Public Works Director Dan Jonasson said the city has a shortfall of about $8 million in money for property acquistions that it hopes the state will cover.

The $8 million covers current needs. In total, about $53 million will be needed to complete acquisitions through Minot city limits for flood protection, Jonasson said. The city expects to acquire about 650 properties for the project.