Red River Valley Water Supply Project

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Ken RoyseIt would be difficult to find a Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) Board Chairman who is more knowledgeable about water in North Dakota than Ken Royse. He was elected to the Board in 2005 as the Burleigh County Director and has served as the Chairman since 2017. He was reelected in January 2019 to another two-year term as Chairman.

Although he is retired now, Ken spent his career as a professional engineer who focused on water project development. He served on the Board of Directors for Bartlett and West as well as the Director of Water and Energy Projects for the engineering firm. Much of his focus was on drinking water and irrigation system development – both of which mesh well with Garrison Diversion’s projects.

“The Garrison Diversion Board is blessed with a wide and deep pool of professional people with varied professional backgrounds. We have current and past city mayors, city council members, county commissioners, bankers and finance people, agribusiness and other business members. We also have several professional engineers,” says Ken, as he explains how seriously he takes his role on the Garrison Diversion Board. “I believe that I and the other engineers on the Board have a responsibility to bring our past experiences to the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP) in an oversight capacity. While none of us presume to get into specific design issues, we do have the ability and responsibility to take a deeper look at the technical and project contracting issues than someone not having our same background.”

When it comes to the RRVWSP, Ken wants the public to better understand the threat of drought that looms over North Dakota and the economic consequences of another dust bowl scenario. “Climatologists have told North Dakota we are due for another 1930s style drought event to occur in the not too distant future. Conservative estimates show a possibility of a $25 billion hit to the State’s economy if that were to occur. If we get hit with that set of circumstances without the Red River Valley Water Supply in place, how could we recover? Would it be immediate and significantly higher statewide property taxes, income taxes, or sales taxes? Or would State services be cut dramatically to accommodate that $25 billion price tag? Perhaps some combination of both would have to occur,” he ponders. 

“I am pleased that the State of North Dakota and the State Water Commission have vested the huge responsibility of moving this project forward in Garrison Diversion. It shows the level of respect that those and other entities have for Garrison Diversion to rise to this challenge and make the project a reality. We have assembled a solid and strong project team – inclusive of Garrison Diversion staff, the Lake Agassiz Water Authority, and the project’s consultants – to make the project successful,” says Ken.  

In addition to his role on the Garrison Diversion Board, Ken continues to be involved in North Dakota’s water community by serving on the boards of several water organizations, including ND Water Users Association, Water Education Foundation, and the Upper Missouri Water Association.

When he’s not finding ways to solve North Dakota’s water issues, Ken and his wife of 39 years, Kay, like to spend time with their rescue pets, which include two dogs and two cats. The couple have a son and daughter-in-law who live in Los Angeles, a daughter and son-in-law in Seattle, and a son who lives in Taiwan.

People from the Bismarck-Mandan area may recognize Ken’s last name by his family’s former business, Royse’s Twin City Produce. The produce store was established in Mandan in 1948 by his parents and was operated most recently by Ken’s sister, Delores Royse Castle. The business closed its doors last summer after 70 years. Since he comes from a family of entrepreneurs, Ken enjoys being involved in various ventures with relatives. In his spare time, Ken also enjoys reading biographies and true crime books.