Former state Sen. Nodland joins ND State Water Commission
The newest member of the North Dakota State Water Commission said Friday it's only a matter of time until North Dakota's eastside population base has a new -- albeit familiar -- source of domestic water.
"We will see the day in North Dakota that Fargo and Grand Forks will be getting water from Lake Sakakawea," said George Nodland, who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Jack Dalrymple late last month. "That's not a question. There's money already being money put aside to build the pipeline and it's already been studied. There just isn't a dollar amount yet, but we will see that day."
A Dickinson resident and former state senator and Stark County commissioner, Nodland is taking the place of longtime Commissioner Jack Olin, who decided to retire early rather than serve out his term, which runs through until 2015. The nine-person commission includes state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and is chaired by Dalrymple.
With water policy always at or near the forefront of issues facing western North Dakota, and the state as a whole, Nodland knows there is much work to be done, but said he's ready for the challenge.
"One of the things we have to do is to make sure that we take care of us here in the western part of the state," Nodland said. "We're creating a lot of money through our oil and gas tax and we need to make sure it comes back to us. We need to make sure that we're taking care of our people."
From flooding in the eastern and central part of the state to groundwater and oil industry usage concerns on the western side of North Dakota, Nodland said he understands the importance of how the commission tackles water-related issues to the long-term viability of the Peace Garden State, which has burst onto the national energy scene in recent years thanks to oil and natural gas produced in the Bakken formation.
"What's really scary for me is the fact that our aquifers are starting to drop a little bit," Nodland said. "Our aquifers in western North Dakota are actually fed over many years through the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills, so we need to continue to find ways to not overuse that water. When you talk about Lake Sakakawea, a hot summer day will evaporate more water off the lake in one day than what (the Southwest Water Authority) uses in a year. That's how much water is in Lake Sakakawea, just so people have an idea."
Raised in Dunn Center, Nodland said he was no stranger to water scarcity and discoloration from the groundwater growing up.
He said his top priority is to get and keep reliable supplies of fresh water to residents in western North Dakota.
"The oil industry knows that water is paramount and I believe it has done a great job of working with the state of North Dakota," Nodland said. "But groundwater is not our long-term solution here. Groundwater quality is becoming poorer in every part of the state. There are also people in rural areas and on rural farmsteads that have very poor water and I feel we should be attempting to offer them the opportunity to have real, clean water."
Nodland, who also has a background tackling water issues in northwestern North Dakota, said he is excited to work with Southwest Water and plans to be a regular attendee of the authority's monthly meetings.
In a statement, Dalrymple said Nodland is the right person to succeed Olin, who he also praised for his years of service to the state.
"I am very pleased to have George Nodland join the state water commission," the governor stated. "His knowledge of the water needs of western North Dakota and his experience as a state senator and county commissioner will be a great asset as we work to set the state's water priorities. I also commend Jack Olin, who has been an outstanding public servant for the state of North Dakota, not only as a state senator, but also as a long-time member of the state water commission."
Dalrymple went on to praise Olin for his contributions to the Southwest Pipeline Project, which he said has been instrumental in bringing water to the people of western North Dakota.
As for Nodland, the prospect of sitting idly during his retirement -- which he said officially began last December after years in the banking industry and as a public servant -- wasn't particularly appealing.
With his new role, however, he said he'll have plenty to do.
"I'm excited to get started," said Nodland, who will attend his first state water commission meeting Monday in Bismarck. "Water is always going to be important. We can't live very long without it."