Posted 5/11/11 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
Legislation that would provide $110 million of state money to fund the Western Area Water Supply was referred to as Mission Impossible during the North Dakota Legislature.
But last Tuesday afternoon, western North Dakota communities and counties that will benefit from having a long-term source of fresh water for domestic, as well as industrial use, were in Watford City. They came to not only celebrate Mission Impossible becoming Mission Accomplished, but to witness Gov. Jack Dalrymple sign into law HB 1206 during a special signing ceremony in the Watford City City Hall.
“This was a classic bill,” stated Gov. Dalrymple. “There were dozens of different ideas. But in the end, everyone could live with it because everyone wanted to see this legislation pass.”
HB 1206 provides $110 million in state financing for the newly created Western Area Water Supply Authority, a water supply system that will transfer water from the Missouri River to communities and industrial users in western North Dakota. The financing includes $35 million from the Resources Trust Fund, $50 million from the Bank of North Dakota (BND) and $25 million from the General Fund.
“This legislation and the Western Area Water Supply project are important for western North Dakota, as well as the entire state,” Dalrymple said. “The project not only meets the rapidly expanding domestic water needs of the region and provides quality drinking water to rural parts of the state, but it also provides water to support the growth of North Dakota’s targeted industries.”
In addition to providing drinking water to rural communities in western North Dakota, the water supply project will also impact energy development in the state. The system will bring water closer to the oil fields, reducing the distance water needs to be transported and lessening the impact on roads in oil country.
“This is a long-term project that will be a good investment in western North Dakota,” stated Dalrymple. “It is a project that is being built not just to handle the oil boom, but it is also a project for the people who live here now and those who want to live here in the future.”
While Dalrymple as well as other area legislators that were in attendance at the signing acknowledged the legislation ultimately had near unanimous support in the North Dakota Legislature, that would not have been the case without the local support.
“This project succeeded because of the people that were involved in it at the local level and because of their testimony and work during the session,” stated David “Skip” Drovdal, District 39 Representative and N.D. Speaker of the House. “Many thought that this was ‘mission impossible,’ but we persevered through all the committee and subcommittee hearings. What really sold this legislation is that it provides for long-term economic development for western North Dakota. And with a good water supply, we’ll always have economic development.”
Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford perhaps best summed up the feelings of local communities who will have a reliable source of water in the future.
“This is something that we will be able to look back on, and say that a great thing came out of this session for all of western North Dakota.”
Sanford, along with Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Economic Development executive director, and Denton Zubke, McKenzie County Water Resource District chairman, were just three of the many local citizens who worked closely with legislators to help secure passage of HB 1206.
“What we are able to celebrate here today is the way northwest North Dakota came together and communicated their needs to us and the rest of the state,” stated Dalrymple. “The people of the state came to know that you had exceptional needs and they supported you.”
Regional communities and water districts that were sponsoring the project included the City of Williston, the Williams Rural Water District, the McKenzie County Rural Water District, the Burke-Divide-Williams Water System Association and the Ray and Tioga Rural Water District. The water supply system will benefit the communities of Williston, Watford City, Ray, Tioga, Stanley, Crosby, Grenora and Wildrose.