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‘It may be in the history books’: Crews begin to dig pipeline to supply water to Red River Valley during droughts

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Crews laid the first segment of a planned 165-mile underground pipeline on Tuesday, August 3, marking a first step forward for an ambitious effort to provide the people of eastern North Dakota with a backup water supply. if the Red River dried up or failed to meet demand. .

The proposed $ 1.22 billion pipeline will carry water from the Missouri River near Washburn, North Dakota to the Sheyenne River, which winds through the eastern part of the state and ultimately empties into the Red River north of Fargo. Supporters say the project would help meet the additional water needs of nearly half of North Dakota’s population, including water consumers in Fargo and Grand Forks, but completion of the pipeline is in the pipeline. years.

At a busy dedication ceremony near Carrington, about 40 miles northwest of Jamestown, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said he was “really excited” about the project which will fill a need critical in eastern North Dakota. Mahoney noted that the pipeline is a worthwhile investment, as a repeat of the Dust Bowl of the last century would cost the region billions of dollars.

Troy Becker / Forum News Service

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Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the project was good for all of North Dakota as a reliable water supply would attract businesses, including food processing and fertilizer factories. Wardner, a Republican from Dickinson, noted that the western part of the state “has already been taken over” with drought mitigation projects, and it’s time to focus on the east.

“We’re all going to be gone, but generations to come are going to benefit from this project,” Wardner told a crowd of construction workers and politicians. “Looking ahead, I think this will really put North Dakota on the map.”

The project has struggled to gain funding and attention for many years, but the current drought conditions have underscored the need for an additional water source in the Red River Valley. Several speakers noted that the idea for the project originated in the 1940s, and it is miraculous that it finally comes to fruition after so many false starts and obstacles.

Construction crews lay a segment of pipeline near Carrington, North Dakota for part of the Red River water supply project on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

Construction crews lay a segment of pipeline near Carrington, North Dakota for part of the Red River water supply project on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

The state legislature has committed money to the pipeline in each of the last three budget cycles, including its biggest credit of $ 50 million this year, said Duane DeKrey, managing director of the Garrison Diversion Conservancy project sponsor. District. Public funding for the project comes from taxes on the energy sector, making North Dakota “the only state that can turn oil into water,” said Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford.

Thirty-five municipal and rural water utilities have signed up as clients for the pipeline and will provide a quarter of the funding to complement state support.

The project is still more than $ 1 billion short, but DeKrey said he hopes lawmakers will spend a large chunk of state money on the pipeline in 2023. The speed of construction will depend on how quickly. which the project gets funding, but DeKrey estimates it will take 10 years to complete the pipeline.

North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner R-Dickinson speaks at a groundbreaking celebration for the Red River Water Supply Project on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, as the Mayor of Fargo, Tim Mahoney, and Garrison Diversion Board Chairman Alan Walter.  Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner R-Dickinson speaks at a groundbreaking celebration for the Red River Water Supply Project on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, as the Mayor of Fargo, Tim Mahoney, and Garrison Diversion Board Chairman Alan Walter. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

Wardner said the legislature will fund the project until it is completed. Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman D-New Rockford echoed her Republican counterpart, saying the project enjoys bipartisan support as it will benefit future generations and help keep rural communities vibrant.

The Red has not dried up since the 1970s, according to the National Weather Service, but the river now flows well below normal summer levels. DeKrey said the proposed pipeline would displace water if it were in service today, noting it can help with both minor drought and severe prolonged drought.

DeKrey and Wardner said they were not particularly concerned about opposition to the pipeline from landowners or other states, noting that since North Dakota is funding the project internally, there is no has no fear of ending up in federal court.

Attendees at the celebration on Tuesday signed the 6-foot-diameter pipe with Sharpies before teams hammered it into the ground. After getting his name inked, Wardner turned to representative of legislative water guru Jim Schmidt and said that “it might be in the history books someday.”

Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford signs his name on a segment of pipe before crews lower him into the ground near Carrington, North Dakota on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford signs his name on a segment of pipe before crews lower him into the ground near Carrington, North Dakota on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service


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