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Landowners near Rhame question water project

An apparent dispute over land easements could delay or derail plans for the city of Rhame to receive Southwest Water Authority service.

Following the passage of a measure approved by Rhame voters in July, it was expected that construction of a 3-plus mile pipeline to connect the city's water supply to SWA infrastructure would be completed by this fall or sometime in 2014.

Any chance of the project being completed in 2013, however, was essentially nullified when Rhame Mayor Dennis Walser announced at an Oct. 14 City Council meeting that a number of landowners who had received easement requests -- necessary for pipeline construction -- had concerns about the project.

"The biggest deal, the way I understand it, is that the landowners felt that things weren't taken care of in the past when Southwest Water put lines in on their property," Walser said Wednesday. "Three or four months ago, when I spoke to people, I didn't see a problem at that time. The only thing they said to me at that time was that they wanted to meet with the engineer from Barlett & West."

After the measure passed -- Rhame residents voted 63-12 to receive SWA service -- the city sent out easement requests to eight landowner parties, according to information received by The Press on Thursday from Walser and Rhame city auditor Margie Russ.

Walser said he expects most of the landowners to sign and return their easements -- at least one landowner only recently received an easement -- but that "two or three" have reservations about allowing Bartlett & West, the engineering contractor used by the authority, to build on their property.

"I don't have a problem at all with the project," said Conrad Soderstrom of Bowman, one of the landowners yet to agree to sign an easement. "If Rhame needs the water, we're all for Rhame getting it. All I've said is that I'd like to meet with the engineer before we agree to anything. Hopefully, everything works out fine."

Soderstrom said his concerns were not over money, but rather the condition of his land post-construction.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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