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Water pipeline project nears completion

After conception by a few area minds in the late '70s and about $31 million later, rural residents in southwest North Dakota can receive treated water as a section of the Southwest Pipeline Project nears completion.

More than 940 residents near Medora, Beach, Sentinel Butte, Golva and five additional contract users are now receiving treated water after completion of the Medora, Beach Regional Service Area, a section of the Southwest Pipeline Project.

The first customer in the Medora, Beach Regional Service Area received water on Oct. 13, 2004, and a celebration of the section's completion will be held at Hazen's City Hall located at 146 East Main on Monday at noon.

Southwest Pipeline Project Manager Timothy Freije said preliminary engineering on the Medora, Beach Regional Service Area began in 2002, construction commenced in 2003 and wrapped up last year.

However, not everyone has warmed up to the idea of pipeline water.

"We'll have people that'll tell us that they don't want water and never will and then they get mad when they come to sign-up and we don't have any water left for them," Freije said.

Freije said some people may have declined pipeline water as they never thought the project would become a reality.

"A lot of people have been waiting since the '80s to get hooked up," Freije said.

Getting treated, pipelined water to the area has not been a short process.

The Legislature authorized the Southwest Pipeline Project in 1980 and construction began in 1986, said Mary Massad, Southwest Water Authority manager and chief operating officer.

More than $180 million has been spent on the pipeline thus far, Massad said.

Dickinson first received pipeline water in October 1991, with rural customers first receiving water in 1992, she said.

Since the pipeline started, water use has grown.

In 1992, water use was at 655 million gallons.

2008 was the biggest year with nearly 1.6 billion gallons used and last year, 1.5 billion gallons were used.

Rep. Frank Wald, R-Dickinson, witnessed the project from its birth.

"It's been approximately 30 years since Dickinson and southwest North Dakota launched an effort to get a permanent adequate and quality water supply by way of a pipeline from Lake Sakakawea," Wald said.

Wald vividly recalls area water quality prior to a pipelined supply.

"I can recall before the pipeline, the water in the shower smelled like dead carp, as Patterson Lake was our only source," Wald said, according to a letter. "In fact, the city was considering recycling the last stage of the city lagoon because Patterson's water level was near the intake."