A preliminary spending plan for state water projects in the next biennium would give Minot $50 million to start work on a flood protection plan, while the Northwest Area Water Supply project would get $15 million to continue construction.
The budget draft, which continues to be a work in progress for the State Water Commission, estimates $375 million will be available in 2013-15 from the Resources Trust Fund.
"Our needs far exceed what we have for revenue, but our revenue forecast is really rosy," state engineer Todd Sando told a legislative committee in Minot Monday. "I think we might not be able to do it all in the next two years, but as revenues keep coming in, it will really solve a lot of our water needs and water issues across the state and make a big difference for future generations."
Jill Schramm/MDN • Dan Jonasson, Minot public works director, addresses the Legislature’s Water-Related Topics Overview Committee Monday in Minot.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Rep. Curtiss Kreun, R-Grand Forks, and Sens. Randy Burckhard, R-Minot, and Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, left to right, prepare to hear testimony from Minot officials at a hearing in Minot Monday.
Sando told the Legislative Management's Water-Related Topics Overview Committee that large flood protection projects for the Souris River and Red River valleys are just getting going so will see the bulk of their spending in years beyond 2015.
"The big issues are really out west with the water supply," he said
The Southwest Pipeline Project and Western Area Water Supply are facing pressures with the growth from the oil boom, he said. Both are in the preliminary budget for around $50 million each.
Officials study river management changes
Pushing more water down the Souris River faster is a river management option under discussion by North Dakota and Canadian officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
State engineer Todd Sando said rather than keeping river flows from Canada at no more than 4,000 cubic feet per second crossing the border, flows would go to 6,000 or 8,000 cfs under plans being studied. The target flow at Minot is being considered for increases up to 15,000 cfs.
Another piece of the plan, Sando said, is to raise Lake Darling as much as 10 feet, providing additional storage.
The idea behind moving more water faster and earlier is to preserve storage and possibly prevent flooding such as occurred last summer. The measures could reduce the scale of a proposed $820 million flood protection plan to protect Minot to about 27,000 cfs. However, Sando said the degree of cost saving is uncertain.
He added there also are impacts in Canada to raising target flows, and neither changing the flow rate or raising the lake will be easy decisions.
"It will take years, really, to address the issues," Sando said.
WAWS wants to increase the capacity at the Williston Water Treatment Plant from 10 million gallons a day to 14 million gallons a day as it moves toward an eventual 21 million gallons a day. Sando said bids on the initial expansion came in double the estimated cost, and it's uncertain whether the state can provide the additional money.
Meanwhile, Southwest Pipeline has restricted water use because demand exceeds supply.
NAWS is seeking $15 million to continue building pipeline to the northeast of Minot and to make upgrades at the Minot Water Treatment Plant. This year the plant is getting new filters and pipeline will be completed to Minot Air Force Base, Glenburn and Lansford. Work also continues on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is federally funded.
Legislators questioned Minot's ability to continue to provide water to area communities through NAWS, given the city's own growth.
Jonasson said last summer's flood recharged the aquifers that had been seeing depletion in recent years. The aquifers can provide up to 7 million gallons of water a day, but the demand on the city's water supply has grown from about 4 million to 6 million gallons a day, on average.
Jonasson said he believes Minot can supply NAWS for the next few years, but it's important that NAWS obtain another water source.
"We know the aquifers can't sustain the growth we are looking at," he said.
Jonasson added that the city will require as much as $176 million in infrastructure expansion to accommodate projected growth.
Current construction of an $8 million sewer expansion will open development to another 1,000 acres, he said. Developers have plans for 2,500 acres, but until water and sewer trunks can be extended, many projects are on hold.
"We need to do about $28 million worth of trunk sewer line. We look at starting that next spring," Jonasson said. The city has received money through a state infrastructure fund and oil impact fund to help with the work.
Asked about lagoon capacity, Jonasson said the city is studying eventual construction of a wastewater treatment facility costing $35 million to $50 million.
Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said the city takes wastewater from as far away as Williston. But the impact of the flood on city infrastructure is making it difficult for Minot to continue to help its neighbors.
"Our city council is going to have to take a look at that before we get into too much trouble," he said.
The city also takes municipal waste from area counties. With the oil boom in the west, that waste volume has almost doubled in the past three years, Jonasson said.
"It's taken the life of our landfill from having 30 years left to less than 15 years left," Jonasson said. "We figure we have somewhere between $5 million and $7 million in costs just to expand."
The city is looking for more land for inert waste after flood debris filled its existing cells.
Cindy Hemphill, Minot finance director, said even with its other infrastructure expenses, the city is willing to do its part in funding in a flood protection project. She said the city is considering using sales tax to fund the local share of the full length of the project in North Dakota. The city also is counting on state help.
"We may be asking for something more than the state normally would cost share because we will be bearing such a large burden with the local share on this entire project," Hemphill said.
Sando said the 2013 Legislature also will have to allocate more money for property buyouts for flood protection around the state. The initial $50 million isn't enough to cover the amount required by Ward County and Minot alone, he said.
In Minot, 478 properties, including 278 residential lots, are affected by the flood plan's footprint.