‘Give us our water’

Signs that the public’s patience is wearing thin after 27 years were evident at a public hearing on the Northwest Area Water Supply project Wednesday in Minot.

“We need water today,” Dan Schaefer, manager of All Seasons Water Users District, Bottineau, told the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which held the hearing to take input on a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for NAWS.

“That area of the state needs good drinking water and we need it as soon as possible,” Schaefer said. “We don’t need to be messing around anymore.”

A federal judge ordered the draft SEIS to address concerns of Manitoba about organism transfer into its water basins from the Missouri River and Missouri’s concerns about river depletion.

The preferred alternative chosen by the bureau to address concerns calls for an intake inside the Snake Creek Pumping Plant on Lake Sakakawea and an ultraviolet/chorine treatment plant in Max. The alternative would use Missouri River water and Minot’s existing aquifers as the supply.

The alternative is estimated to cost $207 million for construction and $10.5 million for operation, maintenance and replacement. The bureau is taking comments until Sept. 10, after which time it will finalize the draft and issue a Record of Decision.

Participants at the hearing supported the preferred alternative. Among those offering comments were Minot Mayor Chuck Barney, city public works director Dan Jonasson, NAWS Advisory Board chairman Robert Schempp, West River Water and Sewer president Richard Lokken, Minot City Council member Tom Seymour, who represented the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, and Gary Hager, manager of the Upper Souris Water Users, Kenmare. Comments from the state’s congressional delegation were delivered by staff.

Todd Sando, state engineer with the State Water Commission in Bismarck, noted that federal, state and local governments already have invested $117 million in NAWS.

“For that reason, we cannot and will not ease up efforts until our citizens can turn on their taps and know they are getting the best product available,” he said.

Clifford Issendorf, Kramer, a member of the NAWS Advisory Board, said he was told 27 years ago that Bottineau County would have NAWS water in 10 years. In 2003, he was told the county would have water by 2010.

“Bottineau County still does not have the water,” he told the bureau. “We need a good Record of Decision coming from you. We need it easy to understand and easy to implement. Give us our water.”