Fifteen years after the state began construction of the Northwest Area Water Supply Project – and 12 years after Manitoba sued to stop the project -- a court has ruled the project meets the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act.
The project will bring water from Lake Sakakawea to Minot and surrounding areas of northwestern North Dakota.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said that would give the northwest an unlimited supply of water.
"In a drought year, you realize how important that is," Hoeven said.
Hoeven said while court action was pending, a lot of work was done on the project.
"So a lot of the infrastructure has been built, or is being built," Hoeven said.
The reason: NAWS is already getting water from aquifers.
"Right now, it's drawing water out of the Sundrie and the Des Lacs aquifers," Hoeven said. "The risk is you draw those down as you supply more and more people. That's why you have to have the water from Sakakawea."
Hoeven said it will take a little time to actually get Lake Sakakawea water into the pipelines.
"We will have to build some treatment near Max, which is the divide between the Missouri River watershed and the Hudson Bay watershed," Hoeven said. "That will take a few years, but that won't disrupt anything, because we will continue to use the aquifers."
The state of Missouri joined that lawsuit. The federal court has dismissed that state’s claims.