Red River Valley Water Supply Project

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Representatives of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP) are devoting time traveling to Bismarck this legislative session, to meet with lawmakers, testify, and answer questions about the drought mitigation project. Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) Board members and staff, Lake Agassiz Water Authority (LAWA) Board members, and elected officials have made weekly trips to the Capitol since the session began in early January.

“It is so important to be available in person in Bismarck to answer questions about the project. The legislative session is very busy, but it’s a really good opportunity to connect with legislators and share information about the project,” says Merri Mooridian, Administrative Officer of Garrison Diversion and Deputy Program Manager of RRVWSP Administration
Garrison Diversion and LAWA are requesting $50 million for the RRVWSP in the 2019-2021 State Water Commission (SWC) budget. If approved, $25 million of the funding would be allocated towards construction of a pipeline segment. The remaining $25 million would fund the final design of key project components and the land acquisition process, as well as legal and financial costs.

As of crossover, the project’s supporters were pleased that the SWC’s budget bill, SB 2020, was approved in the Senate with $50 million in grant funding included for the RRVWSP, with an 80 percent cost share from the SWC after June 30, 2021. The other 20 percent would be paid by the projects users, which include 35 cities and water systems from the central part of the state to the eastern side. In late March, the House Appropriations Education and Environment Division Committee suggested changing the cost share included in SB 2020 to 60-40 and the funding to $30 million.

“The cost share component is critically important to the project’s end users. Throughout the session, RRVWSP and LAWA representatives, as well as the project’s end users, have repeatedly provided testimony about the importance of long-term affordability to the future of the RRVWSP. If the project is not affordable for smaller communities and water systems, we will lose systems,” says Mooridian.

In addition, the House defeated SB 2275, a bill that included two percent loans over a 40-year period. “The importance of a reasonable cost share and maintaining the two percent 40-year term cannot be stressed enough. This is a make or break situation for the Red River Valley Water Supply Project. An 80-20 cost share and 40-years at two percent will allow the project’s smaller users to continue to participate in this emergency water supply project,” says Dr. Tim Mahoney, LAWA Chairman.

The SWC budget for the 2017-2019 biennium included up to $30 million for the RRVWSP. HB 1020 directed $17 million for RRVWSP planning and permitting, and $13 million to begin construction.

“The project has made good progress with the funds provided during this biennium, and we are very grateful to legislators and the State Water Commission. If we receive $20 million less than requested for the next two years, it will make it much more difficult to make the progress we need to complete prior to regulations such as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule potentially being redefined,” says Duane DeKrey, Garrison Diversion General Manager. “We really do need to make substantial construction progress over the next two years, and we need $50 million to accomplish it.”