Dorgan: Plan doable but difficult

Post Date: Feb 22 2008

A plan to bring Missouri River water to the Red River Valley is needed and achievable, but it will not be easy to realize, U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan said Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference in Fargo, Dorgan said the Red River Valley Water Supply Project must clear several hurdles before it can move ahead, and he listed a number of them:

- The Department of the Interior must issue a record of decision identifying the specific option to be pursued.

- The State Department must assess whether the project complies with the Boundary Waters Treaty.

- Objections from Canada, Minnesota and Missouri must be addressed.

- To proceed, the project requires new authorization from Congress.

Dorgan said the North Dakota Legislature also must undo a step it took last year when it decided $100 million of the state's $200 million share of the project's cost would come from federal funds North Dakota receives for water projects across the state. Dorgan said neither his colleagues in Congress nor state entities served by those federal dollars will allow the funding plan to stand.

There are some who seem to feel we'll just snap our fingers and the project will happen. That is not the case at all, Dorgan said.

The project, estimated to cost $660 million if built soon, would divert Missouri River water to the Red River via the Sheyenne River using a pipeline and existing features of the Garrison Diversion Unit  including a canal 59 miles long.

Minnesota and Canada oppose the project because of fears that potentially harmful organisms will make their way into the Red River. Missouri officials are worried the project will mean less Missouri River water for downstream users.

None of these issues are new. We have taken all of them very seriously and have put forward a plan to address them, said Dave Johnson, district engineer for the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, which has been working with local governments and water districts in the valley to meet their future water needs.