The legislature's Water Topics Overview Committee held a meeting in Fargo to get an update on water projects in the Red River Valley.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and Garrison Diversion General Manager Duane DeKrey spoke to the committee about the Red River Valley Water Supply Project. This project would bring water from western North Dakota to the Red River Valley in times of drought. DeKrey says as of today the project will cost $1.14 billion, and there are still several planning steps to navigate before construction of the project can move forward. DeKrey says there is urgency in getting the project underway.
"And the caveat to that is that is that for every year this project is delayed, it tacks on about another $28 million, so there is some urgency in trying to get this to construction."
For Mahoney, his number one priority is flood protection for the city of Fargo - but drought conditions in recent years have reminded everyone of the importance of this project. He says there are currently affordability studies being conducted to determine what the public is comfortable with in terms of cost. He says coordination of the Diversion and Water Supply Project needs to be figured out before the next legislative session.
"The big dilemma we have in Fargo is we have significant infrastructure projects - you're all familiar with the flood diversion - and a lot of our money and capital is tied up in that project. Fargo right now supplies water and wastewater, West Fargo and Cass Rural Water district is a big part of that. In talking to Mayor Bernie Dardis, he's a little concerned that if we start tacking onto their utility bill to pay for supplemental water - he's just concerned about that. So we think there needs to be a balance between the flood diversion and Red River Valley Water Supply, and when construction and when the money goes to the two projects."
Mahoney says the Diversion is planned to be completed within six years of its construction start. He says concern about drought is fresh in people's minds, and there is more and more interest within the legislature regarding support for the Red River Water Valley Water Supply Project.