The North Dakota Water Commission hopes to bid additional work on the Northwest Area Water Supply project in February, but those plans will depend on the decision of a federal judge.
Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., is weighing lawsuits brought by the Canadian province of Manitoba and state of Missouri against NAWS. She issued an injunction against work on facilities related to obtaining water from the Missouri River but has allowed pipeline construction to continue north of Minot.
However, when the State Water Commission filed a report with the court in October on the construction, the judge indicated some concerns and questions, said Michelle Klose, assistant state engineer.
In a response filed with the court Dec. 6, the state provided details on the scope and the reasons behind proposed construction, noting that the projects involve no Missouri River water.
"We are trying to make the case that these are still worthwhile and still valuable to proceed with," Klose said. "What we would like her to know is that these projects are not causing any harm to Canada and the Missouri River. ... To put on an injunction, you need to prevent some harm."
The State Water Commission would like to bid two projects in February. One project will continue 18 miles of pipeline from Forfar to Renville Corner, at the intersection of Highway 83 and Highway 5. It includes a line to Lansford to link the northern tier loop. The other project would extend pipeline along the 17 miles from Renville Corner to near Westhope, tying into All Seasons Rural Water.
Manitoba had sued over potential transfer of organisms from the Missouri River Basin to the Hudson Bay Basin, should there be a leak in the pipeline bringing untreated Missouri River water to the Minot region. Missouri sued over potential depletion of river water.
Manitoba and Missouri have into January to respond to the NAWS' recent court filing. The State Water Commission put the February bid process on hold, although officials hope a favorable decision comes in time to call for bids yet this winter.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation currently is preparing a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to address concerns of the judge that led to the injunction on treatment facilities and water intake.
In November, NAWS completed pipeline to Glenburn and Upper Souris Water District and a new, larger line to Minot Air Force Base. Glenburn turned on its new water supply Nov. 6. It discontinued use of its previous water supply, described by the city as having a yellow tint and bad taste, with a tendency to leave spots on washed clothes.
The City of Minot is providing water through the NAWS pipeline under a contract with the State Water Commission. Minot will serve only the portion of the project already completed and proposed to be built this year. Communities already served include Berthold, Burlington, Kenmare, Carpio, Mohall and Glenburn as well as a number of rural customers and the air base.
Klose said pipeline won't be built to Bottineau at this time because Minot cannot supply the water.
The Bureau of Reclamation expects to complete the supplemental EIS in the spring or summer to submit to the court. That will be followed by a period in which the court processes must play out before a final determination is made on the water treatment necessary for NAWS.
The pipeline placed in the ground from Minot to Lake Sakakawea as the first phase of the project several years ago remains empty but ready once the treatment question is resolved and appropriate facilities built. Klose said there's no harm to the idled pipeline in waiting, but it will need a thorough check and possible valve replacements once it finally goes into operation.