Surrey looks to House bill to support growth plans

The City of Surrey is hoping state legislators look favorably on a bill that would allow the city to expand its water service to new property developments.

House Bill 1440 will be heard before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday. The bill would permit a city’s governing body to petition the Public Service Commission to exclude all or part of the city from a water district.

The bill also spells out the compensation rules in transferring territory and any existing water distribution infrastructure from a water district to a city. It requires the State Water Commission to consider whether a water district is in dispute with another public entity or whether a proposed project would harm another public entity before granting any state funds to the water district.

The North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association opposes the bill. A spokesperson was unavailable to explain the organization’s position.

The City of Surrey would like to extend its water distribution system to new developments as they are built and annexed into the city. Those areas now are part of North Prairie Rural Water District’s service area. Surrey is hindered in its negotiations with North Prairie because it previously had not formally identified the territory as its growth area, city auditor Jason Vaagen said. By gaining the right to provide water service, the city could ensure that adequate fire protection and other services are provided, he said.

Surrey operates its own water distribution system but contracts with North Prairie for its water supply. If the city is unable to incorporate growth into its city system, residents in the new areas would contract as individuals to buy water from North Prairie.

Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, a co-sponsor of the bill, spoke at a recent forum in Minot to stress the need for a more equitable situation for communities that are trying to grow. However, he added that it will be challenging to get a bill passed this session, and it may require persistence and future legislative efforts should efforts fail this time.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Curtiss Kreun, R-Grand Forks. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Maragos and Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, and Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot, and by several representatives and senators from Jamestown, Devils Lake and Crosby.

Minot is not directly affected by the legislation because it has an established growth area and can negotiate with North Prairie to bring new developments into its municipal water system.