Fargo Officials Optimistic About Diversion Project

Mon May 07, 2007 - Midwest Edition
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FARGO, N.D. (AP) City officials say their goal of bringing Missouri River water to eastern North Dakota appears to be within reach.

“All the pieces are in place, and it appears the money is going to be available, too. Now is the time,” said Bruce Furness, the former mayor of Fargo and the chairman of the Lake Agassiz Water Authority.

The Lake Agassiz group has been working on a plan to provide the Red River Valley with an emergency water supply by 2012. The water authority and state officials have endorsed a proposal to transfer Missouri River water east.

“We have found a way to get water to eastern North Dakota without any negative impacts and at a cost that will be affordable to the people of North Dakota,” said Dave Koland, general manger of the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District.

Under the plan, the construction of a $400 million pipeline could start as early as 2009, with water delivered to the Fargo area by 2012.

A second phase, expected to cost $200 million, would divert some Sheyenne River water to Wahpeton.

Project costs would be shared by federal, state and local governments. The federal government would pay for a treatment facility expected to cost more than $100 million. A $200 million loan for the project has been approved, but the federal government has yet to appropriate the money.

Furness hopes water systems and cities will sign on to use the water. The amount each entity would have to pay is still being determined, as are other details such as delivery capacity.

A pipeline capable of moving 120 cu. ft. (3.4 cu m) of water per second could supply Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., with approximately 22 million gallons (83,000,000 L) of water a day — approximately the amount Fargo processes each day during the summer months, Furness said.

A revised draft environmental impact statement for the project is to be released at the end of January, followed by a 45-day comment period. Congress must give final approval before any Missouri River water could be released.

“Everyone has to pray we don’t have a drought between now and when this gets completed,” Fargo administrator Pat Zavoral said. The city has said it hopes to keep the cost to its residents at approximately $10 per month.

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