Construction is resuming on a project to deliver Missouri River water to north-central North Dakota, including towns like Stanley, Bottineau, and Minot.
Work started on the Northwest Area Water Supply project in 2002, but has been delayed frequently by lawsuits.
Now, with only one lawsuit remaining to be settled, major work to finish up NAWS is about to begin.
As Jim Olson reports, that final work will end years of water problems for people in Bottineau County.
(Jim Holiski, Bottineau Resident) “It’s nothing you really want to drink.”
That’s how Jim Holiski describes the municipal water in his hometown of Bottineau.
(Jim Holiski, Bottineau Resident) 4035 “It’s got an odor to it. Smells like rotten eggs when you first turn the faucet on.”
(Keith Fulsevakke, Bottineau Superintendent) “We have to get something different.”
That’s Keith Fulsevakke, the city superintendent who’s been on the job for Bottineau for decades – dating way back to when that ‘something different’ was first promised.
NAWS – or Northwest Area Water Supply – was authorized in 1986. It wasn’t until 2002 that the first construction began. But that was also when lawsuits started, with various groups in Missouri and Canada trying to stop NAWS. For many years, a federal judge allowed construction to continue while she considered the lawsuits. The judge halted that construction a few years ago. The pieces in red on the map are yet to be finished. But now, she has removed that construction hold – and the final length of pipe, connecting Bottineau, should be in place in two years.
(Tim Frieje, State Water Commission) “It’s fun to be speaking with engineers again instead of attorneys. I do speak their language better.”
Tim Frieje of the State Water Commission says pipeline installation should be finished by the end of 2020. Then there’ll be water flowing from the Minot water treatment plant to Bottineau – just as it is to the many other communities hooked up to NAWS already. But that’s using Minot’s municipal water supply.
(Tim Frieje, State Water Commission) “We need to get water from the lake to Minot – their aquifers, they are declining pretty rapidly.”
That’s where the final, most important piece of NAWS comes in – the plant near Max that will treat the Missouri River water before it arrives in Minot for distribution, ending the supply concerns and providing an end to a decades long struggle for clean water. The bad news? It will be several more years before that treatment plant is finished.
Jim Olson, KX News.
Tim Frieje of the State Water Commission says the remaining work on NAWS will cost about $200-million.
About $40-million of that will be paid with money from Minot’s city sales tax.