Canal water sought for industrial use

Posted: Aug 01 2018

JESSICA HOLDMAN Bismarck Tribune
Aug 1, 2018

For the first time, water from the McClusky Canal could be used for industrial and municipal purposes, according to Garrison Diversion.

If federal officials sign off, the entity will have the initial environmental approval it needs for a proposal to ship 20 cubic feet per second of water from the canal to cities lying to the south and east.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft Finding of No Significant Impact document and final environmental assessment for public comment on the Central North Dakota Water Supply Project through the end of the month. If the FONSI is signed, Garrison Diversion will begin price negotiations with the bureau.

“A supplemental water supply is needed for continued growth and industrial development in the region and to support economic development in central North Dakota,” Garrison Diversion wrote in its proposal.

The project would serve Stutsman Rural Water District, Jamestown, Carrington, Central Plains Water District, Tuttle, and South Central Regional Water District with an additional 14,489 acre feet, 4.7 billion gallons, of water annually.

“After decades of just sitting there, the McClusky Canal is on the verge of serving the water needs of communities in central North Dakota,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in a statement.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., echoed those sentiments.

Area aquifers are meeting current needs, said Kip Kovar, district engineer for Garrison Diversion. But for such entities as Spiritwood Energy Park, usage is near capacity.

In 2015, CHS Inc. canceled plans for a $3 billion fertilizer plant in Jamestown, in part due to lack of a needed water supply, according to bureau documents. The plant would have needed 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of water per minute.

But state officials see a trend.

“Plant genetics as well as changes in climate have allowed farmers to grow traditional row crops in areas where they could not before in North Dakota," for which processing is more water intensive, bureau documents read.

“That’s the states hope,” said Duane DeKrey, Garrison Diversion's general manager. “We live in an (agricultural) state. Maybe we can keep some of those agricultural (processing) plants closer to home.”

As part of the project, Garrison Diversion would need to construct and maintain a water intake, wet well and pump station, costing around $15 million, as well as about 6 miles of pipeline, for which Kovar said there is no cost estimate yet.

The water from the project would be used entirely within the Missouri River Basin in North Dakota, but it has potential to tie into an even larger project.

The state has been working on plans for the 165 CFS Red River Valley Water Supply Project, taking water from the Missouri River by pipeline east.

Utilizing the canal rather than the river for 20 gallons of that could result in about $1 million in cost savings, said Kate Kenninger, natural resource specialist for the Bureau of Reclamation. But the Central North Dakota project is not contingent on the Red River Valley project and its approval would make sure communities within this basin get served now.

Kenninger said there would not likely be a measurable impact on Lake Sakakawea storage or the ability to meet water demands as a result of this project. As for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to place drought time restrictions on canal water usage in an effort to protect stability of the Snake Creek Embankment between Lake Sakakawea and smaller Lake Audubon, Kenninger could not speak to the water supply project's impact.

DeKrey is expecting FONSI approval. The state Legislature hasn’t funded the project's pipeline to date but DeKrey said he was mandated by lawmakers to seek the approvals.

He is aiming to have permits in late January from the Health Department and the rest of the approvals in hand by the time the Legislature prepares to wrap up for the biennium. The money for the project is likely to come in the form of standalone legislation, DeKrey said.