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The City of Minot received good news on Aug. 11 regarding one of its long-running legal battles when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Northwest Area Water Supply project could proceed.
In its ruling, the court said the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Study for the project fulfilled the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act. The court also dismissed lawsuits brought against the project, lifted an injunction and allowed the project to move forward. Lawsuits aimed at stopping the construction of the NAWS project had been filed in previous years by the state of Missouri and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
“The State Water Commission and City are working on prioritizing a path forward for completing the design of the remaining segments of the projects,” said Dan Jonasson, Public Works Director for the City of Minot. “We realize that Manitoba and Missouri will probably appeal the ruling by the judge and ask that the injunction against work on NAWS remain in place, but we will continue to fight that if it happens. We expect an appeal process could take a year.”
The court’s decision was heralded in Minot, where local and state leaders have battled for years in courtrooms to complete the project, which will bring water from Lake Sakakawea to the City of Minot’s water treatment plant. From there, the water will be distributed to a host of area communities, including Minot, Burlington, West River Water District, Upper Souris Water District, Mohall, Sherwood, All Seasons Water District, Kenmare, Berthold, and Minot Air Force Base.
The project has been funded with federal, state and local funds, and is designed to bring 26 million gallons of Missouri River water per day to some 100,000 residents in North Dakota. The water will first be treated for biota transfer at a facility near Max before final treatment to drinking water standards occurs at Minot Water Treatment Plant.
Construction on NAWS began in 2002, but there is much work remaining, and Jonasson said the court’s ruling allows the process of design and construction to move forward.
The design of the treatment plant at Max is under way, with the design work estimated to take approximately 21 months to complete. Following the design, construction would begin when a funding source is secured.
There will also be work required at the Minot Water Treatment plant to accommodate the increased capacity of water needed to serve additional cities once the system is operational.
“We are working on Phase 2 of the Water Treatment Plan work, which is the replacement of our treatment basins so that we have capacity to treat more water,” Jonasson said. “This phase will be bid toward the end of the year, with construction starting in early 2018. It will take between 12 and 18 months to complete the expansion, and funding is in place for this work through the State Water Commission.”
Currently, Minot supplies water to several area communities through parts of the NAWS system that were allowed to proceed. The city’s 10-year contract to provide that water expires in 2018.
Jonasson said he expects that contract to be renewed, and the city to continue to supply water to existing communities. “We hope the expansion at the Water Treatment Plant will be completed shortly after the contract is renewed and we have additional capacity so that we can provide water to additional communities as needed,” he said.
Jonasson added that there are several pipeline projects left to be completed to get water to more locations, including Westhope, Bottineau, and All Seasons water users. There are also several storage reservoirs and pump stations that need to be constructed along those routes, although the major work left to complete is the treatment plant at Max, the intake at the Snake Creek Pump Station that will take water off Lake Sakakawea, and the expansion at the Minot Water Treatment plant.