The commission OK’d its local share of $2.5 million needed for a partnership with the state to continue planning and to possibly start construction next year of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project in case of a drought.
Commissioners also heard more details about the settlement that will end lawsuits and allow final permits for the estimated $2.7 billion flood diversion project.
The emergency drought protection project will deliver Missouri River water to the Red River Valley and central North Dakota and is similar to the Garrison Water Diversion project of years ago — without the irrigation component — that ran out of funds and was halted.
Under this new project, the state provided $13 million in the previous two-year budget cycle with a 90% to 10% cost share, leaving Fargo to pay $1.15 million because it would receive 80% of the water pumped from the Missouri.
For the current budget cycle, the state provided $7.5 million, but reduced the cost share to 75% to 25%, leaving Fargo to pay $1.8 million.
Fargo City Administrator Bruce Grubb said the city already started paying for its share through the water utility fund in a three-year payment schedule that started in 2019.
He said attempts to get federal funding for the project failed, so officials decided on the state and local effort.
Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said smaller cities in other parts of central and eastern North Dakota that may take advantage of the water supply could help reduce the city’s cost share. It could be an economic development tool for those smaller communities to have a guaranteed water supply, he said.
Grubb said the major parts of the project are an intake structure on the Missouri River, a pipeline to carry the water and a discharge structure on the Sheyenne River that will deliver water to this area.
Work could start as soon as next year. Grubb said there is an aggressive six-year plan for completion, with an alternative 10-year plan.
Grubb said the other part to the city’s drought preparation plan is to lower water usage per person, and Fargo was doing an excellent job with that as the level has been cut to about half of the national average of 180 gallons per person per day and much lower than the city’s usage in past decades. He credits that to conservation efforts.
Commissioner John Strand said he couldn’t believe they were talking about two important “climate resiliency efforts” in one meeting.
In discussing the diversion settlement, Diversion Authority Executive Director…