Posted 3/09/11 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
Many McKenzie County residents are still waiting for rural water to run through their faucets, but if the Legislature passes HB 1206, the water could be flowing a lot sooner.
HB 1206 would bring more funding options to the Western Area Water Authority.
“The idea of a regional board started about two years ago when several counties started looking at using water from the Missouri River for their rural customers,” says Jaret Wirtz, McKenzie County Water Resource District manager. “Due to community growth and requests from the oil industry, we decided to introduce a bill that would allow the project to be funded a lot faster.”
The bill, which has been passed by the House, would bring a $30 million grant to the Western Area Water Authority and allow the group to sell bonds with state backing.
“If the bill passes, we would receive the grant for immediate project needs and then sell $120 million in bonds for the remainder,” adds Wirtz. “The bill states that if for some reason, the Western Area Water Authority falls through, the state would take over the bonds.”
If the bonds and grant go through, Wirtz estimates that the project could have water to all rural areas in two years rather than 10 years through current funding.
“With so many requests from oil companies to buy water, we are certain that it wouldn’t take much time at all to repay the bonds,” states Wirtz. “In addition, by building the lines large enough for oil company use, we would also ensure that we have large enough transmission lines for any growth over the next 20 years.”
Funding for the project would also help to bring Missouri River water to Watford City residents as well.
“Although our main priority is rural water customers, once the funding has been acquired for the rural lines, we will move on to Watford City,” adds Wirtz. “The bill passed 91 to three in the House, so we are hopeful that it will also pass the Senate. But even if it doesn’t we will still receive the $30 million grant and that will get rural water to Alexander. After that we will continue to seek yearly funding until the entire project is complete.”
If you live in McKenzie County and you’re interested in getting rural water, there is something that you can do to help secure the funding.
“It would be great if people would contact their representatives and urge them to pass HB 1206,” states Wirtz. “Even if you’re not waiting for rural water, there are a lot of people out there who are, and if this bill passes it would help out a lot of people.”
If you’re a rural resident and you’re not signed up to receive rural water, it’s not too late.
“Anyone in the county who wants to receive rural water needs to contact me,” urges Wirtz. “No matter how remote you are, we need to know if you’re interested.”
For more information on rural water in McKenzie County, contact Wirtz at 444-3116.