$8 million for Southwest Water AuthoritySen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. said the $8 million in federal funding he has secured for the Southwest Pipeline Project is about fulfilling a promise made by the U.S. Government over 60 years ago.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. said the $8 million in federal funding he has secured for the Southwest Pipeline Project is about fulfilling a promise made by the U.S. Government over 60 years ago.
Dorgan, who is the chairman of the Energy Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said one of his priorities of chairman is to achieve the funding the government promised when the Garrison Dam was built as a part of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Plan in the 1940s.
“The federal government came to us and said, North Dakota, if you will allow us to put a permanent flood in your state, in order to save all the flood damage downstream we’ll give you a benefit,” Dorgan said at a meeting of the Southwest Water Authority Monday. “We’ve never gotten much of the irrigation benefits, most of them sort of went by the wayside, but we have gotten substantial benefits by being able to fund rural water systems.
“And the southwest pipeline is one of those systems.”
The Southwest Water Authority, which oversees the pipeline project, is finishing up construction in Golden Valley, McKenzie and Dunn counties.
The next phase of construction, which is planned to begin this year, will occur in Oliver, Mercer and northern Dunn counties and provide water to 1,200 rural users and eight communities, including Hazen, Center and Stanton.
Dorgan said the money he has been able to allocate will help move good quality water to residents who desperately need it.
“Since I come from southwestern North Dakota, I know and I’ve held up — in U.S. Senate, at hearings and other places, on the floor of the Senate — I’ve held up bottles of water that looks like freshly brewed coffee,” Dorgan said. “Not all of it looks like that, but some of it does.”
And Dorgan said it’s not a case of North Dakota getting something it doesn’t deserve, because it does deserve it.
“This is something that was promised us as a result of a flood that comes and stays in our state and we’re finally starting to see the benefit of that promise,” Dorgan said. “This is not a case where you’re going to have to wonder how much you might get of the Garrison diversion money ...
“... I’m actually putting a line-item in to say here’s the southwest pipeline funding. That’s the best way to do it. It’s the way I want to do it and since I’m chairman of the committee I can do it.”
Loren Myran, president of the Southwest Water Authority board of directors, thanked Dorgan for his efforts on behalf of southwest water.
“We’ve enjoyed that water for over 12 years now and it’s just wonderful,” Myran said. “On behalf of these people, these hard working people, a good board, we want to thank you and we really appreciate it and look forward to working with you.”
Dorgan opened up the floor for questions and was asked about recent discussion about climate change legislation, which could affect energy development in the state.
Legislation in regards to carbon emissions will likely be introduced in the coming months Dorgan said, “but it has to be done right.”
“For example, we produce a lot of coal in North Dakota,” Dorgan said. “But in our entire country 50 percent of all the electricity we use comes from coal, that’s just a fact.”
Dorgan said it is unrealistic to just stop using coal, but it is important to find a cleaner way of utilizing it.
When the Senate begins dealing with climate change legislation, Dorgan said it’s important coal development isn’t shut down, that more money is spent on finding ways to capture carbon, and incentives to find more sources of oil stay in affect.
Especially in North Dakota, Dorgan said, where up to 4.3 billion recoverable barrels of oil are located in the Bakken shale.
“We don’t want to shut that down, we want to continue to get the oil that exists in that formation,” Dorgan said. “It’s very important we get that right.”