Meeting to Address Water Issues

Post Date: Sep 27 2007

A meeting will be held Thursday to discuss a pipeline project linking the Garrison Diversion Unit (GDU) with the Sheyenne River.

Representatives of the Garrison Diversion Project will detail the Red River Valley Water Supply Project during a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Williston Community Library.

During the 2007 North Dakota Legislative Session, some $12 million was approved to study linking a water pipeline 120 miles from the McClusky Canal to Lake Ashtabula (located north of Valley City). The funding was approved for a period of three bienniums.

“The money will be used for the final design of the Red River Valley Water Supply Pipeline,” said Merri Mooridian, communications director for the Garrison Diversion Project out of Carrington.

While the project lies in central and southern North Dakota, Mooridian notes that it does involve water from our water resources.

If appropriated and completed, the Red River Valley Water Supply Project would draw an average of one inch of water from Lake Sakakawea every year, she said.

Lake Sakakawea is part of the Missouri River system chain that would contribute to the project, she said. It moves water from Lake Sakakawea to Lake Audubon. Water from Lake Audubon then moves on to the McClusky Canal. At the McClusky Canal, a biota water treatment plant is planned for the water processing before the water is piped to Lake Ashtabula and moves on to the Sheyenne River.

She said the plan to be outlined Thursday evening is the preferred alternative draft of the project. Its final approval must come from the federal level. “Nothing is decided until the Secretary of Interior makes a decision,” Mooridian said.

Advocates of the projects argue that:

Research shows that a drought like the one in the 1930s could be repeated by 2050.

Most of the residents of the Red River Valley, 42.2 percent of North Dakota’s population, rely on the Red River and its tributaries for their primary source of water.                                                                    In 1934, there were nearly five consecutive months of zero flow in the Red River in Fargo. If such a shortage occurred today, it would take 1,200 truck loads of water per day to supply the basic household’s needs in Fargo alone.

The economic impact of being unprepared for a 1930s type drought would be $2.4 billion every year of the drought.

 Water shortages during the severe drought would be devastating to industry in the Red River Valley. Studies show if a water supply shortage is greater than 15 percent, industries would leave the area.

During a severe drought, Lake Ashtabula would fall below the minimum Fish and Wildlife Conservation Pool. This lack of water could have damaging consequences on fish and other aquatic life.

According to the study, impacts on the Missouri River would be minimal since this project is a supplemental water supply project. The effect on Lake Sakakawea is about one inch per year.  It is the least costly of the options.