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North Dakota seeks rural water grants

Rural water associations may see less available grant funds from the North Dakota Water Commission in the upcoming biennium, according to Harley Swenson, a member of the water commission.

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Agweek

Rural water associations may see less available grant funds from the North Dakota Water Commission in the upcoming biennium, according to Harley Swenson, a member of the water commission.

"This year (the current North Dakota budget year) we had a lot of money," he said. "Next year we expect about 20 percent as our appropriation."

The current biennium, which runs through June 2017, furnished the water commission more than $1 billion to fund projects, Swenson said. Current estimates for money available for projects are at about $175 million with some of that money already planned, or earmarked, for projects.

"The Legislature earmarked $250 million during the last legislative session for the next biennium," Swenson said. "Money they don't have."

Geneva Kaiser, manager of Stutsman Rural Water District, told the water commission at a meeting in Jamestown Tuesday the district is looking for grants to defray costs of a $2.9 million expansion to Pettibone, which is currently having water quality issues.

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"These projects are appreciated by people who get the water," she said. "They wouldn't be possible without the grants from the State Water Commission."

Grants from the water commission have been at a 75 percent level for the last four years, Swenson said.

"Previous grants were at 60 percent," he said. "We went up to 75 percent with better state funds. We'll probably return to the lower levels."

Stutsman Rural Water had received a grant of 75 percent for an expansion project started in 2013 and completed in 2016. The project added 385 miles of pipeline to the system as well as 420 new users at a cost of $13.2 million.

Stutsman Rural Water had also received a 75 percent grant for water tower, pipeline and storage improvements with a cost of about $3.5 million.

Other rural water groups also had requests.

Perry Kapaun, manager of Barnes County Rural Water, said the number of people planning to utilize a recent expansion continues to grow with about 40 people on a waiting list.

"We have a 'build it and they will come' problem with the project expanding," he said.

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Kapaun said he was looking for grants to help cover the cost of about $1.5 million in work required to complete the project.

"It affects real people out on the prairie," he said, referring to the importance of water projects in rural areas.

Steve Hanson, manager of Southeast Water Users District, operating in Richland, Ransom, Sergeant and Dickey counties, said his district is in the planning and engineering stages for a $4 million expansion project. Construction is planned for 2017, if grant money is available.

The meeting in Jamestown was one of six across North Dakota where water commission members heard from local water groups as part of creating a plan for funding water projects in North Dakota.

"The state water plan is a critical step in what we do," said Garland Erbele, state engineer and secretary for the water commission. "We want to hear about your projects and for you to hear about what is new."

Swenson said it will be up to the Legislature in its upcoming session to determine how much money is available and what funds are earmarked for high-priority projects. He urged the water groups to contact their legislators about water funding.

"If they earmark it all, we might not have a dime to spend," he said.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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