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Press Photo by Mike Hricik U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., center, talks with Southwest Water Authority CEO Mary Massad, and other board members Friday in Dickinson.

Heitkamp decries Army Corps for water charges: Senator: ‘We have to bring the promise of water to those who wait’

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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., decried U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attempts to charge for Lake Sakakawea water during a visit to Dickinson on Friday afternoon.

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Heitkamp met with leaders of the Southwest Water Authority, which provides water to about 56,000 residents in and around southwest North Dakota.

Last week, the U.S. Senate sent the Water Resources Reform and Development Act to President Barack Obama, with a provision presented by Heitkamp barring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to charge North Dakota residents for water.

State leaders promised that companies would be able to use this water for hydraulic fracking, in exchange for losing hundreds of thousands of acres of prime bottom land to the construction of the Garrison and Oahe dams, Heitkamp said.

The corps had previously proposed charging $21 per acre foot of water in exchange for dam storage.

“We have a hard time understanding why the Corps still claims ownership to the water,” said Larry Bares, the president of the Southwest Water Authority Board.

Heitkamp also pledged to work with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., to secure more federal funding for water infrastructure in the state.

She expressed confusion at why state funding sources, like the Resources Trust Fund, are holding back on infrastructure money for oil-producing counties that badly need it.

“If you don’t have water out here, you don’t have business out here,” Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp commended Southwest Water’s attempts to bring water to rural areas dependent on unreliable wells, urging forward progress in Dunn and Grant counties.

She fondly recalled when pipelined water first came to her childhood home in Richland County.

“We have to bring the promise of water to those who wait,” she said.

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