Red River Valley Water Supply Project

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The Co-Sponsors of the state Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP) and the future end users of the project are busy preparing for North Dakota’s 2023 legislative session. Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) and Lake Agassiz Water Authority (LAWA) hosted informational workshops for legislators in Bismarck, Carrington, and Fargo in November and December. The events provided an overview of the need for the drought mitigation project, how water will be conveyed from the Missouri River, construction progress, and funding needs to complete the project in a timely manner. The RRVWSP will provide an emergency and supplemental water supply to cities and rural water systems via buried pipelines spanning from central to eastern North Dakota when constructed. 

2023 Legislative Funding Request
Garrison Diversion, LAWA, and project participants intend to request $255 million from the legislature to fund construction during the 2023-2025 biennium. The amount of the RRVWSP legislative request is based on the project’s design progress and capability of construction crews to accelerate the project’s timeline.

The RRVWSP work plan for the upcoming biennium includes construction, continued project design, and the phase 1 design of the Eastern North Dakota Alternate Water Supply Project (ENDAWS). To accomplish the 2023-2025 work plan, Garrison Diversion and LAWA will need about $340 million. The $255 million legislative request is equal to 75% of the work plan budget. The remaining $85 million is the local share the Project’s end users will contribute.

The budget breakdown for the $340 million work plan includes the following amounts for each task during the biennium:

  • Shovel-Ready Construction: $285 million
  • Continued Design: $24 million
  • ENDAWS Phase 1 Design: $30 million 

Need for Accelerated Construction
A cost-efficient build schedule that spans six years is proposed to access the emergency water supply sooner, as North Dakota has experienced moderate to severe drought conditions over the past couple years. “Climatologists predict we will see another severe 1930s-style drought before 2050,” explains Duane DeKrey, Garrison Diversion General Manager. “We are going to request funding that will allow us to complete this drought mitigation project sooner, so we can ensure the state is protected from the estimated $33 billion impact a 10-year drought of that magnitude would have on North Dakota.”

“An accelerated build timeline also reduces the risk of ongoing inflation that will cause the project’s cost to dramatically increase,” says Merri Mooridian, Garrison Diversion Administrative Officer and Deputy Program Manager of RRVWSP Administration. “One thing we can control is how quickly we construct the project.”

ENDAWS Cost Savings
The RRVWSP will realize cost savings by proceeding with the federal ENDAWS portion of the Project. ENDAWS will utilize McClusky Canal, which is part of the original Garrison Diversion Unit infrastructure, to convey Missouri River water via buried pipeline and connect to the state led RRVWSP. “The decision was made to proceed with the federal ENDAWS portion of the project because it provides a potential capital cost savings of $270 million,” says Kip Kovar, Garrison Diversion Engineer and Deputy Program Manager for RRVWSP Engineering. “McClusky Canal is a long-underutilized federal asset that was originally created to provide a municipal and industrial water supply and irrigation. The ability to make use of McClusky Canal as an alternate water source for the Red River Valley Water Supply Project will save millions of dollars in construction costs, as well as operations and maintenance costs.”

End User Affordability is Crucial
An important consideration that will be brought before legislators is the cost to the project’s end users. The cities and rural water systems that need the emergency and supplemental water supply from the RRVWSP must have access to affordable loans. “Our end users need a loan program to help ensure they can afford to participate in the Red River Valley Water Supply Project,” says Mooridian. “We will request ‘debt sculpting’ to allow cities and rural water systems participating in the Project to grow into their loan repayments over time.” 

RRVWSP Partnership Benefits ND’s Economy
Garrison Diversion and LAWA will propose partnering with the State of North Dakota to fund economic development capacity through industrial water access. “This is a win-win scenario because it maintains local affordability for end users while ensuring the rural water systems and municipalities involved in the project have adequate future development capacity to attract new industries to North Dakota,” says Mooridian.

This would be a prudent partnership, as the Bank of North Dakota’s Regional Economic Modeling Incorporated (REMI) software forecasts full utilization of the RRVWSP’s industrial capacity would have a $1.7 billion annual impact on North Dakota’s economy. The REMI software also forecasts the RRVWSP would protect $22.2 billion in the state’s gross domestic product during future severe droughts between 2033 and 2050, while reducing the cost of water supply disruptions to the state by an average of $1.9 billion per year.

“The drought mitigation cost savings to the State of North Dakota as well as the Project’s forecasted boost to the State’s economy are substantial,” says DeKrey. “We hope our lawmakers see the need for accelerating the Project’s construction and agree to help our end users with affordable loan terms in the upcoming legislative session.”