NAWS faces another two-year delay
Posted 6/22/10 (Tue)
Work continues on NAWS tower . . . A worker hanging
on the south side of the NAWS elevated, one million
gallon water storage tank paints on a blue protective
coating Monday. The $1.84 million, 125-foot tall tower
is located two miles east of Kenmare
By Caroline Downs
Work on the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) project is rolling along this summer, but an order issued by the federal court in March has potentially extended the completion of the entire pipeline and treatment system by two years.
Members of the NAWS Advisory Committee heard the bad news directly from Michele Klose, NAWS project manager, during a committee meeting held the last week of May. Klose explained that on March 5th Judge Rosemary Collyer requested a review of the cumulative impacts of water withdrawal on the water levels of the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea, and on the consequences of potential biota transfer into the Hudson Bay Basin, including Canada.
“This means the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be opened up again, there will be additional scoping meetings, and public comments will be opened again,” said Klose. “It may be another two-year process for the additional EIS that has to be completed.”
Two weeks after that order was issued, the federal court did agree to grant the state’s motion to modify the injunction in order for design work to be completed on the piping and filtration system at the Minot water treatment plant. Klose said that design work could be completed in October 2010. Another request must be filed with the federal court to allow construction of the project, which should occur during the winter months when water demand is lower.
Klose continued her report by saying a third-party contractor was under consideration to write clear and easily-read documents for the court. The first EIS was prepared in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and that relationship will continue with the State Water Commission.
“They’ll be working more closely with us than they were able to do the last time around,” she said. “This isn’t the greatest news, because we were asked by the court to work on the environmental work. But we’re under a court order to do this additional work, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Advisory committee member Gary Hager asked if the EIS would be necessary if the court could be convinced there was absolutely no risk of biota transfer from one body of water to another in the NAWS system.
Klose answered that part of the difficulty may have come from the technical descriptions used in the EIS. “We’re losing the overall view of how low that risk is,” she said. “We’ve struggled with this for so many years that we sometimes lose perspective on a national level. It’s such a low risk, coming up seven and a half feet and moving several miles overland before reaching a tributary. And when we talk about biota transfer, it’s not even of known species.”
According to Klose, the court has not understood the analysis and explanations offered in the current EIS. “When we’re talking about a risk to Canada, it needs to be a clear document to show how limited that risk is,” she said.
Committee chair Bob Schempp asked if a consultant could do the research and writing more quickly than Bureau of Reclamation staff. “If a consultant can be hired, we’re estimating one year to complete the work,” Klose said, adding that the Record of Decision would have to be posted then and the issue sent back to the federal court for review. “That’s why we’re now estimating this to be a two-year process.”
Committee member Clifford Issendorf asked if treating the water at the source should be reconsidered at this point, but Klose reminded him the first EIS did consider all options for levels of treatment.
“Manitoba provided comments on those,” she added, “and now the court has said we have to look at the impacts to Canada and we have to look at depletion. Our advice at this point in time is to do the additional studies.”
She emphasized again the need for clarity in the EIS as these two issues are addressed. “With a third party, we will have a new view on this and have a plain language understanding, so we can all understand,” she said. “Also, we need to be clear on that this project is and not the averages based on other projects in the country.”
Hager asked Klose about the estimated time line to complete the entire NAWS project, including construction of the treatment plant for Missouri River water. “If we can work on the intake and improvements to the treat plant in Minot, then I’d say about six years,” Klose said. “Before, we were saying about five years to get that water supply to Minot. We have made a huge amount of progress with construction in the past year.”
She was less certain about the financial impact the delay would have, with the cost of the Missouri River water treatment plant dependent on the level of treatment to eventually be selected after the legal issues are resolved. “We’ve found that facility costs are the ones increasing the most,” she said.
Construction in full swing
Regarding progress on the pipeline, Klose reviewed several current contracts for the project, including the $1.84 million contract with Caldwell Tanks of Kentucky to build a one million gallon storage tank two miles east of Kenmare. The welded tank was lifted into position on its concrete pedestal last November, with some welded areas left to be cleaned to prepare for coatings. Immediate work focused on coating the floor and roof portions of the tank, with the electrical work inside the tank about 75 percent complete. Local residents may notice the blue coat currently being applied to the exterior of the tank.
A second project related to Kenmare was the $4.85 million contract with Northern Improvement for construction of 52 miles of 10”-12” pipeline for the Kenmare and Upper Souris Water District pipeline. Water service to the city of Kenmare through the pipeline started December 7, 2009, and water service to the Upper Souris Water District at the Donnybrook turnout began December 22nd. Seeding the pipeline area will be completed soon, with contract closeout expected to follow in the coming weeks.
The new water service has seen use. In March 2010, the NAWS project delivered 2,259,000 gallons of water to Kenmare, 867,000 gallons to Berthold, and 516,000 gallons to the Upper Souris Water District at Donnybrook.
The city of Minot delivered 105,000 gallons to North Prairie Water District turnouts on the NAWS line.
Given the status of the Berthold, Kenmare and Donnybrook portions of the pipeline, the State Water Commission changed from a construction to an operations mode, and was advertising for a Class II operator. “They need to take care of the system as it is right now,” said Klose. “This will be maintenance from Minot north. It is that whole system we’re responsible for.”
Other construction projects underway for NAWS this summer include the All Seasons contract to build 13 miles of 6-inch and 10-inch pipeline between the All Seasons water treatment plant and Gardena, and the contract for the connection of the Burlington and West River Water and Sewer District to the NAWS pipeline with water service to possibly begin in July.
A third contract covers 62 miles of pipeline for the Mohall/Sherwood/All Seasons pipeline, with 14 miles of the 12-inch line and 13 miles of the 6-inch line installed by last November. Work on that section of pipeline resumed in May and is expected to be completed by November 15, 2010, at a cost of $5.114 million.
Klose noted design work continued for a 32-mile segment of pipeline running north from Minot to connect the Minot Air Force Base, Minot Northhill and Upper Souris Water District (which in turn serves Glenburn and Lansford). A fall bid opening is expected for that contract, now estimated to cost $15.4 million.
Missouri River study
may impact NAWS
In other business, the Advisory Committee approved a request for a turn-out on the NAWS line next to the city of Des Lacs, both to ease stress on that water system and to handle the local fire department’s request for additional water for fire protection.
Members of the Advisory Committee also heard reports from SWC Assistant State Engineer Todd Sando and Garrison Conservancy District manager Dave Koland regarding the status of the Corps of Engineers’ decision in early May to conduct a three- to seven-year study of Missouri River usage. The unexpected action followed an application for a permit to withdraw 50,000 more acre feet of water from Lake Sakakawea to use for fracturing purposes in the Bakken Shale formation and oilfield development.
“They want to follow the scoping process to look at the six authorized purposes of the Missouri River system,” said Sando. Public meetings will be held up and down the Missouri River basin, including in Williston, Bismarck and Fargo.
He encouraged members of the NAWS Advisory Committee to become active in the process. “There are a whole host of things to consider,” he said. “This could impact municipalities, the NAWS project and other projects.”
Sando noted that hydropower and water supply had traditionally been considered the two biggest uses on the Missouri River. Two other authorized uses are recreation, and fish and wildlife. “Now, some people are saying flood control and navigation are the most important,” he added. “That’s why this study is important. The downstream states have received all the benefits.”
Koland was more direct in his criticism of the action taken by the Corps of Engineers. “The Corps is essentially shutting North Dakota off from access to the Misouri River,” he said. “We are absolutely entitled to the water that falls in North Dakota and runs into the Missouri River.
He promised the State Water Commission would continue working to resolve the issues with the NAWS project.
Next steps for NAWS
Schempp agreed the Advisory Committee needed to be involved in the new problems NAWS faces. Klose reported that a scoping meeting regarding the revised EIS and the issues raised by the federal judge will be scheduled in Minot for July or August, and Schempp suggested the Advisory Committee meet the same day.
He also asked about obtaining transcripts from the previous scoping meetings. “I want to see what’s been brought up, so the committee can be informed,” he said. “I think at this point we should become involved as much as possible.”
The NAWS system will be the subject of a tour offered by the North Dakota Water Education Foundation on July 14th. The tour will showcase the high service pump station in Minot and the impact of the new water for the cities of Berthold and Kenmare, with mayors Alan Lee and Roger Ness scheduled to speak. Another stop will take at the Mouse River Park Flood control System in Mohall.
NAWS was first authorized by Congress over 20 years ago, with construction beginning in 2002. Because of the ongoing lawsuits filed by the province of Manitoba and the state of Missouri, the federal judge is allowing only pipeline construction. Work on the treatment facility for Missouri River water will not take place until concerns in the lawsuits have been addressed to the court’s satisfaction.