Red River Valley Water Supply Project

Contact Us »

As progress on the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP) ramps up, the co-sponsors of the state and local project reconfirmed their partnership. Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) Board members and staff came together with Lake Agassiz Water Authority (LAWA) Board members in October for a daylong meeting. The purpose of the discussion was to identify what is working with the partnership and determine if there are areas that could improve.

“The benefits of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project are vast for the entire state of North Dakota. This project would not be possible without the strong partnership between LAWA, representing cities and local water systems, and Garrison Diversion representing the State of North Dakota,” explains Ken Vein, who is the LAWA Vice Chair and has served on the Garrison Diversion Board of Directors since 2004.

The organizations were both created by the state legislature nearly 50 years apart to help solve North Dakota’s water needs. The state legislature created the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District in 1955 to construct, develop, and operate the Garrison Diversion Unit (GDU) Project. The GDU is the result of the federal Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program that constructed multiple dams on the Missouri River for flood control, navigation, irrigation, and hydropower. After studies determined the soil in northwestern North Dakota was not suitable for irrigation according to federal irrigation standards, the Bureau of Reclamation revised the diversion plan to take water from the Garrison Dam and reservoir to irrigate lands to the east. This became known as the Garrison Diversion. In 1965, federal legislation called for the construction of the Garrison Diversion Unit Principal Supply Works, which included the McClusky Canal, New Rockford Canal, and Oakes Test Area. Eventually, congress ended the GDU Project, but Garrison Diversion continued in its mission to provide a reliable, high quality and affordable water supply to benefit the people of North Dakota.

In 2003, the North Dakota legislature recognized LAWA as a new water authority. LAWA was created due to increasing water demands caused by the Red River Valley’s growing population and climatologist predictions of a severe drought occurring in the next 50 years. Representatives of cities and water districts in central and eastern North Dakota, along with three cities in Minnesota comprise the Board of Directors. LAWA’s purpose is to provide a reliable supply of drinking water to central and eastern North Dakota with a focus on the economic welfare of the people and the reliability of a high-quality water supply. 

RRVWSPPartneringCharter group photo

The original RRVWSP was a federal, state, and local project. However, when federal authorization failed to materialize, Garrison Diversion and LAWA were determined to push forward with a  state and local project. “Our two organizations are stronger together than we are individually,” says Duane DeKrey, Garrison Diversion General Manager. “Since refocusing the project 10 years ago, we have made an incredible amount of progress on the Red River Valley Water Supply Project. Partnership has made that possible.”

Garrison Diversion and LAWA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2020. The signing was an official affirmation of the cooperative agreement they share in support of the RRVWSP. The MOU solidified how the two entities work together on planning the RRVWSP and constructing it. Although the organizational retreat this fall did not include any formal signing of agreements, it provided time for both parties to get some face time with each other and reconnect.

“Like any successful partnership, there needs to be a willingness to share control to amplify the results that either entity could get alone,” says Dr. Tim Mahoney, LAWA Board Chair and Mayor of Fargo. “The working relationship between LAWA and Garrison Diversion continues to strengthen and increase in importance as construction and implementation of the project moves forward for the benefit of all parties.”

Construction of the RRVWSP is expected to wrap up by 2032, a little less than 20 years after LAWA and Garrison Diversion joined forces in support of the state and local RRVWSP.