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Berthold questions availability of more NAWS water for booming development

Up to 2,000 new homes may be constructed near Berthold, and those households will need water.

4/10/12 (Tue)

By Caroline Downs

Up to 2,000 new homes may be constructed near Berthold, and those households will need water.

However, the NAWS Advisory Committee tabled action on a request from the North Prairie Rural Water District to provide water for that development.

Teresa Sundsbak, general manager for NPRWD, made the request at the Committee’s meeting held March 27th. She did not ask the Committee for additional construction, but for the costs associated with expanding capacity on the current NAWS line and approval from the Committee to move ahead with the project.

“We know we’ll need additional pump stations within the line,” she said, “and the developers would pay for that. North Prairie Rural Water District already has the supply from the city of Minot, but what about the capacity of the NAWS line. What would it take to deliver this water?”

She noted that NPRWD was discussing plans to provide the water with the city of Berthold and the State Water Commission.

Currently, all water delivered along the NAWS pipeline is supplied by the city of Minot under contracts with the communities. The NAWS plan to treat and deliver water from the Missouri River is on hold pending the outcome of a federal court case.

Supply questions
Sundsbak’s request raised a concern about supply among Committee members, beginning with Clifford Issendorf. “I see this [oil and gas] development coming toward the east, and your request is a snowball that’s going down the hill,” he said. “How much more water will be needed from NAWS to serve the increasing population?”

Michelle Klose, engineer with the North Dakota State Water Commission, explained that NPRWD already had turnouts on the NAWS line between Berthold and Carpio that would deliver 35 gallons per minute. “What we’re looking at is a way to increase what can be delivered at this point,” she said.

That question circled back to the water needs across a region impacted by a growing population. “We planned this system for 26 million gallons per day,” Klose said, “but the Bureau of Reclamation is looking at population estimates from the Census Bureau and that doesn’t cover temporary housing, new apartments, etc. We don’t have the census data to back up the population increases we’re seeing right now.”

Berthold mayor Alan Lee agreed with Issendorf. “How does a small community plan for a forecast of 1,600 homes in three years?” he asked. “Our water use [in Berthold] has gone up by a third compared to three years ago, and we still have to look at additional pipeline for communities downstream.”

Committee Chair Bob Schempp wanted to make certain water service to the new development would not harm the water supply for communities that signed original contracts with NAWS. “If adding this development puts Kenmare and Mohall in jeopardy, then I have to say no,” he said.

Sundsbak reminded the Committee that NPRWD was not given an option to sign a contract with NAWS because of existing contracts with the city of Minot. “The [water] supply is there,” she said, noting the NPRWD contract at one million gallons per day from Minot. “I believe capacity is the issue.”

Lee agreed the supply was sufficient, but Gary Hager of the Upper Souris Water District wasn’t so sure. “If Minot can’t supply the water, I don’t think it’s fair to people who have been on this since day one that their service might be threatened,” he said.

“This shows how important it is for the line to get finished,” Sundsbak responded.

Delivery is possible
Minot Public Works Director Alan Walter offered more details about the water supply. “North Prairie has enough water in their contract with Minot for the development in Berthold,” he said. “The numbers from North Prairie now show they’re not taking anywhere close to the million gallons per day that Minot treats and pumps for them.”

He noted the 16-inch pipe used to deliver NAWS water should be capable of carrying up to 16 million gallons per day, if pumping operations functioned correctly on the line. “They have the supply, and the line out there will deliver that water,” he said on behalf of North Prairie, then added that population growth had impacted the city of Minot along with the smaller communities, with over 50,000 residents now in the city.

According to Walter, 100,000 gallons of water per day are delivered to Berthold and Kenmare on the NAWS line, but Klose reminded the group the current agreements provided 773,000 gallons per day. “There was one month when we had close to 600,000 gallons per day,” she said. “And we have to remember Glenburn is coming on line later this year and no contracts have been signed with Bottineau yet.”

Kevin Martin of Houston Engineering Inc. referred to the pumping stations Sundsbak said the developer would be adding. “Improving and increasing the capacity could potentially benefit everyone else,” he said.

He described the 24 miles that make up the first segment of NAWS pipeline between Minot and Berthold, with water delivery boosted by two pump stations. “With the development, it’s going to require [more lifts], which can put more water faster along the pipeline,” he said.

More information to come
Klose addressed the group with considerations from the State Water Commission. “The Commission wants to study options for improvements to the system related to increasing demands,” she said. “We’re trying to see both sides.”

She said several proposed developments along the NAWS line had not taken place as projected. “On the other hand, North Prairie is trying to find ways to get a larger customer base and make water more affordable for their communities,” she said.

She continued by saying the State Water Commission did not plan for new facilities to be cut into the pipeline until the original NAWS project was completed. She also mentioned the idea of a “phase approach” for the water district. “North Prairie could use the turnout not being used yet,” Klose said. “We hear from this developer they’re trying to get away from man camps and they may be building these homes in phases.”

Schempp asked about the State Water Commission’s plan for these situations. “What are you proposing for us and for them?” he asked Klose.

Klose said the State Water Commission could prepare the cost estimates as requested for Sundsbak. “The developers want to know if it’s worth pursuing and if there’s going to be water available or not,” said Klose.

She said maintenance costs on the additional pump stations would have to be considered, along with possible supply impacts to other users on the line. “I think it would be reasonable if North Prairie wants to move the turnouts for the supply that was planned for those turnouts,” she said. “That way they could start their development. We can also look at how these pump stations provide a benefit beyond this housing development.”

The NAWS Advisory Committee tabled action on Sundsbak’s request until that additional information could be provided by the State Water Commission.