Officials: Not enough money for water issuesNorth Dakota does not have enough money to fix all of the water issues it faces and needs to work on setting priorities, state officials said Tuesday.
By: By Teri Finneman, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota does not have enough money to fix all of the water issues it faces and needs to work on setting priorities, state officials said Tuesday.
State Engineer Todd Sando gave legislators an update on State Water Commission projects during a meeting at the Capitol.
The commission spent a record $104 million on water-related projects in the past seven months, he said. Going forward, “the numbers are going to be monumental.”
Flood control projects in Fargo, Minot and Devils Lake, and water supply projects in western North Dakota are among the big-ticket items. The State Water Commission budgeted about $400 million for projects during the 2011-13 biennium.
In the past, the priority has been to keep all projects moving forward, Sando said. But as organizations prepare project requests for the next biennium, the needs are likely going to be the highest ever seen.
“In this time period, it might be a little harder to move them all forward at once,” he said.
With the death of Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, the Legislature’s Water-Related Topics Overview Committee lost “vast knowledge” of water issues and projects, said Rep. Curt Hofstad, R-Devils Lake.
Hofstad, the new committee chairman, said it’s up to the committee to become educated and “get out and put some boots on the ground.
“We have some gigantic projects out there, and these projects will certainly change North Dakota forever,” he said.
The state does not have enough money to fix all of the problems, and legislators need to work with water officials to understand the issues and be involved in setting priorities, Hofstad said.
“Water is going to be paramount as we move forward in the state,” he said. “We have huge, huge issues before us.”
Legislators received some good news Tuesday. The resources trust fund, which is used for water projects, has received about $28 million more in revenue than expected at this point in the biennium. The majority of funding for the resources trust fund comes from oil extraction tax revenue.
The State Water Commission would need to come up with recommendations and go before the legislative Budget Section for approval before spending the excess money.
The commission will ask legislators in mid-March for authority to spend $30 million of special session funding. The money will be used for the first phases of floodway property acquisitions in Minot, Burlington and Ward County, Sando said.
The proposal allocates $17.75 million for Minot, $1 million for Burlington and $11.5 million for Ward County.
The preliminary engineering report by the team responsible for the proposed Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project will be released today, according to a news release from the city of Minot.
Teri Finneman is a
multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.