BISMARCK - Elected officials from Red River Valley cities and across North Dakota made their pitch for water project funding during a state legislative budget hearing Thursday, March 16.
Amid the waterfall of testimony was a presentation from Fargo City Commissioner Tony Grindberg, who advocated for continued state support of the massive flood diversion project in Fargo-Moorhead. The estimated $2.2 billion project is expected to receive about a fourth of its funding - $570 million - from the state of North Dakota.
Thursday's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing was on the State Water Commission budget, which includes almost $300 million for new projects in the coming two-year funding cycle. Fargo officials are seeking $66.5 million from the state in the 2017-19 biennium, and Grindberg said he was confident funding would come through.
Construction on the Fargo flood project has started, although it has attracted a lawsuit from a group representing upstream property owners. Last month, a federal judge agreed to bring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers back into the suit.
"The Corps is committed to this project," Col. Sam Calkins of the Army Corps of Engineers told legislators Thursday. "We're confident we can continue construction and that we'll eventually or ultimately prevail in that litigation."
Grand Forks water treatment
Like Grindberg, Grand Forks City Council member Ken Vein was optimistic Thursday that the remaining state funds for the city's new water treatment plant will be in place. That project has already started construction.
The state has provided $35 million in the last two funding cycles for the project, and last session lawmakers passed a bill stating their intent to provide the final $30 million in the 2017-19 biennium.
"I feel very confident either way we'll get it," Vein said.
Vein, who is also chairman of the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, presented lawmakers with plans for a pipeline from the Missouri River to supplement water supplies in central and eastern North Dakota, a project known as the Red River Water Supply Project. He asked for $30 million to keep it on track.
Conceptual design was completed last year, and preliminary design is now in progress, Vein said.
"With continued growth and industrial development, the Red River Valley Water Supply Project will mitigate against drought conditions that could be devastating, foster economic development by meeting municipal, rural and industrial water demands and promote environmental sustainability," Vein said in prepared remarks.
The Senate Appropriations Committee didn't take any immediate action on the budget bill Thursday.