Red River Valley Water Supply Project

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Ken VeinKen Vein has been doing everything he can for more than four decades to protect the City of Grand Forks from natural disasters while serving in various professional and elected roles. As Grand Forks’ City Engineer and Public Works Director, he was on the front lines of the fight and recovery from the disastrous flood of 1997.  His involvement with drought mitigation started in 1993, a few years before flooding caused the City’s greatest disaster.

“I have worked as a professional engineer in the State of North Dakota since 1976.  First as a consulting engineer, then in public service as City Engineer, then in the non-profit sector as Facilities Engineer/Administrative Director.  My experiences in these capacities has given me a greater understanding of the complexities and mechanics of all phases of project implementation,” says Ken.

Ken currently serves as the Vice President of the Grand Forks City Council and is the City’s appointed representative to the Lake Agassiz Water Authority (LAWA) where he serves as the Board’s Vice Chairman. LAWA and the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) are the co-sponsors of the RRVWSP.

“LAWA is a political subdivision of the State of North Dakota that represents water users, including cities and water districts located in central and eastern North Dakota, that would benefit from and are willing to pay the local share for a permanent supplemental water supply from the RRVWSP. LAWA is the local voice of the project and is responsible for funding the local cost share of the Project,” explains Ken. 

When it comes to the ongoing threat of drought, Ken wants more people to understand that it is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ the Red River Valley will suffer from a severe drought. “The Red River Valley represents only six percent of the surface water in entire State of North Dakota. We are extremely susceptible to drought.  Impacts of a drought would result in enormous financial loss, not only to residents of eastern and central North Dakota but to the entire State of North Dakota with an estimated $2 billion per year impact,” emphasizes Ken. “The Red River Valley Water Supply Project is a supplemental water supply that is used in time of drought.  All the users already have a primary water supply that they are already operating and paying for. This project will make use of existing infrastructure to reduce costs.”

During the 2019 legislative session, Ken spent time in Bismarck testifying in support of the RRVWSP.  “My primary goal at the legislature was to secure an affordable cost share between the state and local users, affordable local financing, affordable project timeline, and a reasonable 2019-2021 biennium funding commitment, as well as an affordable operations plan,” he explains. Ken is currently addressing the short-term and long-term funding issues for the Project, which include a 75 percent state and 25 percent local cost share, and $30 million provided to the project in the new State Water Commission budget.

Ken has been married to his wife Debra for 36 years. The couple has two sons, Tom and Daniel.  Tom lives in Los Angeles and works as a sound engineer for musical artists and bands.  Daniel lives in Grand Forks and is in process of re-starting his Firestop contracting business.  Although his work with the Grand Forks City Council, LAWA and Garrison Diversion keeps him very busy, in his downtime Ken enjoy spending time at the family’s lake cabin near Park Rapids, MN. 

“I love spending time in my yard and putting puzzles together whenever possible. I like bicycle riding, four-wheeling and riding my Harley Davidson motorcycle. I also enjoy volunteering for UND Track and Cross-Country events,” he says.