A Letter From The Interim State Engineer
Water-based recreation is a favorite pastime among North Dakotans. The state’s vast resources provide endless enjoyment and activities for residents and tourists during both warm and cold weather months. While enjoying these opportunities, it is important to remember to help preserve our cherished waters.
In the past decade, North Dakota has seen a dramatic rise in Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) and Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS). Invasive species are not native to our ecosystem and introducing them will cause environmental effects, economic impacts, and even public health concerns.
Invasive species can also cause undo harm to previously established habitats, endanger recreational fisheries, and negatively impact communities that rely on lakes and rivers for their water supply. The Water Commission’s vision is to afford present and future generations of North Dakotans with an adequate supply of good quality water for people, agriculture, industry, and fish and wildlife. It is imperative to advocate and support this vision by assisting in the control of invasive species and aid in preventing further spread.
The Water Commission, in collaboration with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGFD), aims to ensure public awareness and encourage citizens to implement preventative measures to address the rapid increase of AIS and ANS across the state. If precautions are taken and individuals demonstrate compliance, the spread can be controlled. By following NDGFD guidance, we can help safeguard a reliable water supply, empower our communities to take action, and limit the harsh repercussions of invasive species.
These best practices include: Clean, Drain, and Dry all equipment, every time you use it.
Clean and remove all plants or animals from your watercraft or equipment prior to leaving any recreational area you are using. Drain and remove water from all equipment prior to exiting designated access points. Not draining water can be extremely hazardous and may cause negligent transportation of AIS to various locations. Afterwards, verify that all equipment is completely dry before utilizing it again.
The Water Commission and the NDGFD acknowledge May 16 – May 22, 2021, as National Invasive Species Awareness Week. I whole heartedly encourage the public to please help monitor, control, and prevent the spread of invasive species in North Dakota.
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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines progress as “a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal): ADVANCE” or as a verb, “to develop to a higher, better, or more advanced stage.” As I look around the Mouse River Basin, it is evident that progress is being made on two of the arguably largest infrastructure projects undertaken in this area – the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) project and the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project. However, much more work needs to be done.
NAWS continues to move toward major milestones upon completion of the lengthy legal challenges that delayed the project. So far during the 2019-2021 biennium, contractors have completed the installation of approximately 50 additional miles of pipe. Currently, with the weather starting to warm up, they are preparing to install some of the final segments, including approximately 14.5 miles of pipe from Souris to Bottineau, which will deliver much needed, quality water to that area.
Moving forward in 2021 and beyond, two major components of the project are proceeding. The first is the Biota Water Treatment Plant in Max, which is the largest single contract awarded by the State Water Commission. It is highly critical to maintain the schedule on this multi-year project, and of equal importance that the $75 million line of credit included in HB 1020 be maintained to keep NAWS moving forward. The Biota Water Treatment Plant is expected to come online concurrently with the Snake Creek Pumping plant intake modifications, which together, will allow water to move from Lake Sakakawea and be treated to serve customers in the NAWS service area.
The Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project also continues to make significant strides. Unlike NAWS in some regards up to this point, progress is much more evident as the improvements to flood protection are more visible than pipe in the ground. Flood walls and earthen levees have enhanced the landscape due to the thoughtful implementation of those components into the design, but clearly much more work needs to be done. The successful passage of HB 1431 would be a substantial investment into this project through the ability to bond through the Bank of North Dakota. This shows a continued commitment by the Legislature to invest in the future of our state’s infrastructure.
All of this brings me back to “progress.” Although much progress has been made, we need to continue to “ADVANCE.” Many years ago, the Minot-area chamber of commerce used the tag line, “partners in progress.” Today, as we move forward on these major infrastructure efforts, we must continue to partner with the state Legislature, local entities, and project sponsors to ensure that we “move forward…to a goal” - completion of flood protection for the Mouse River Basin and providing high quality drinking water to the patrons of NAWS.
Drought Livestock Program Reactivated
At the April 8, 2021, Water Commission meeting, the Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Assistance Program (Program) was reactivated in response to the governor declaring a statewide drought disaster due to extreme conditions across the state.
The Program was originally created in 1991 and last activated in 2017. The Program provides eligible livestock producers with 50 percent cost-share assistance of up to $4,500 per project, with a limit of three projects per applicant. Eligible projects include new water wells, rural water system connections, pipeline extensions, pasture taps and associated works, labor, materials, and equipment rentals to develop new drought-resilient water supply projects.
At the April Water Commission meeting, a unanimous vote by members authorized the use of $557,277 remaining from the 2017 Program to support this year’s program reactivation. Livestock producers in counties impacted by extreme drought (D3) intensity levels, and adjacent counties, will be eligible for the program. The 2017 program supported more than 500 projects with total cost-share of approximately $1.5 million.
Application forms and additional information are available on the Water Commission’s website at www.swc.nd.gov. For further details please contact the SWC’s Planning and Education Division at (701) 328-4989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Probable Maximum Precipitation Study on Track for May Completion
In December 2019, the Water Commission began working on a Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) study. This statewide project, conducted by Applied Weather Associates (AWA), aims to provide updated, state-of-the science PMP data and analysis techniques to advance hydrology studies in North Dakota.
The updated PMP study followed the protocols and guidance originally established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for Hydrometeorological Reports (HMRs) 48, 51, and 52. HMRs describe PMP storms based on shape, size, and duration for areas across the United States.
The original PMP dataset covering North Dakota was developed in the 1970s and 1980s. The initial data primarily represented the Red River of the North and the Souris (Mouse) River. Reports included impacts attributed to snowmelt, which has proven to influence runoff and flooding. Since the completion of the first HMRs, North Dakota has experienced a wet cycle that was not documented during the climate record used in previous studies. This period consisted of various large-scale spring floods and precipitation events. Many of the state’s historic flood events have occurred due to melting snow or rain on snow events, most notably in 1997, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Previous PMP datasets were calculated by implementing hand calculations into coarse chart estimations. These methods have been deemed inconsistent, cumbersome, and challenging to interpret. The new study intends to provide a more user-friendly and versatile tool for estimating PMP values.
The PMP study is managed by a review board to provide guidance, maintain analysis integrity, and to help review deliverables and final products. The review board consists of both state and federal agencies that have direct knowledge of the science and methods utilized in previous PMP analysis. The review board is headed by the Water Commission and is comprised of staff from the National Weather Service offices in Bismarck and Grand Forks, the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Bismarck, the North Dakota State Climatologist at North Dakota State University, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District.
This modernized study will provide an additional 40 years of updated data and will also expand “Cool Season PMP,” rain on snow events, throughout the entire state. “Warm Season PMP” development covers the period from June through September and includes rain events and storms from North Dakota, surrounding states, and southern Canada.
Furthermore, the robust data, updated analysis techniques, and improved PMP estimates will help evaluate flood safety, aid in assessing flood risk, and assist in calibrating event-specific hydrologic models. Additional data methods, upgraded technology, and new storm information can easily and efficiently be added into the updated PMP study. This will allow the data to continually evolve and not become outdated.
The PMP study is anticipated to be completed in May 2021 and will also provide an innovative GIS tool.
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Water Appropriations Division Director Announced
On April 5, Chris Bader was announced as the new Director of the Water Appropriations Division. He possesses an astounding 36 years of service with the Water Commission and Office of the State Engineer.
Chris began his career with the agency in 1985 as a hydrologist in the Water Appropriations Division and later transitioned into his role as team lead in the Data Technology and Services Section. He demonstrates an advanced understanding of the Water Commission, displays unparalleled technical skills, and is an outstanding staff member.
Throughout his career, Chris has provided great leadership, immense knowledge, and considerable support in his various responsibilities. His expertise, insight, and extensive history with the agency makes him a great fit for the role. Chris is an incredible asset to the people of North Dakota and will continue to provide guidance and proficiency as the Water Appropriations Division Director.
Joe Morrissette joined the Water Commission staff in December 2020 as a Water Resource Engineer III in the Engineering and Permitting Section within the Regulatory Division.
Joe grew up in Bismarck and graduated from Century High School. Afterwards, he attended North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering.
Most recently, Joe was employed with KLJ Engineering. He worked as a Transportation Engineer and designed roadway models and plan sets. He is married to his wife Katie and together they have three young children, Joey, Micky, and Ellie. The family also has a chocolate lab named Finn and an orange cat named Queso. During his free time Joe enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, and reading.
Joe has always expressed an interest in water hydraulics and hydrology. He is looking forward to expanding his knowledge in these areas and working on a variety of projects at the Water Commission.
Southwest Pipeline Project Brims with Progress After 35 Years
Nearly 35 years of construction on the Southwest Pipeline Project (SWPP) has resulted in completion of the pipeline network needed to serve the geographical area originally envisioned for the project. The Water Commission has been working to develop the SWPP since 1986, when it was introduced into North Dakota Century Code, Section 61-24.3, declaring it necessary that the SWPP be established and constructed, to provide for the supplementation of water resources through a portion of the area in North Dakota south and west of the Missouri River, with water supplies from the Missouri River for multiple purposes to develop the SWPP.
This state-owned pipeline project is administered by the Water Commission and is managed, operated, and maintained by Southwest Water Authority (SWA). The SWPP transports raw water from Lake Sakakawea to the Oliver, Mercer, North Dunn Water Treatment Plant (WTP), as well as to the WTP’s in Dickinson. Treated water is then distributed to thousands of customers throughout the southwestern portion of North Dakota via a highly efficient network of pipelines, pump stations, and reservoirs.
Since the beginning of construction, the SWPP has been an outstanding accomplishment. The SWPP now serves a population of more than 58,000 people in southwest North Dakota, including 33 communities, 7,185 rural service locations, 23 raw water customers, and 28 contract customers supporting three crew camps and two raw water depots for the oil and gas industry.
As construction on the project progressed, the designed capacity in many areas was fully allocated, and a need for additional capacity arose. In 2020, contracts to increase treated water capacity were executed and included construction of additional reservoirs in Belfield and Davis Buttes located in Stark County.
The second Belfield reservoir, adjacent to the existing reservoir east of the City of Belfield, is a 750,000-gallon reservoir. The Davis Buttes reservoir is slightly larger at 1,000,000-gallons, and is located approximately 1.5 miles northeast of the City of Dickinson. Both projects were operational in late fall 2020.
Additional work also occurred at the Dodge and Richardton pump stations to increase raw water transmission capacity for the SWPP. This included installation of higher-powered pumps at the pump stations to replace the smaller existing equipment.
The SWPP is one of North Dakota’s largest multi-county regional rural water supply projects and is pertinent to the economic development in southwest North Dakota. Increased capacity capabilities on the project will expedite serving the growing needs of the population.
The need for water development funding in North Dakota is critical. It advances many vital regional water supply projects including the SWPP, Northwest Area Water Supply, Western Area Water Supply, and the Red River Valley Water Supply Project, among others. The North Dakota Legislature and the Water Commission understand the importance of water supply projects and continue to work toward prioritizing funds in the most efficient way possible. Progress on these projects directly contributes to providing the citizens of North Dakota with clean, reliable, quality water.
Funding for the project has been provided through several supporting entities, such as the Water Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, and the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (formerly Health).
For the past 35-years, SWPP has been, and continues to be, a successful water development project for the State of North Dakota. The success of the SWPP results from the teamwork, dedication, and devotion of many, including the Governor’s Office, Legislature, Water Commission, SWA, and the citizens of southwest North Dakota. It represents a shining example of what can be accomplished with collaboration, hard work, and determination.
ARB Internships Elevate Students for Future Success
For over 45 years, the Atmospheric Resource Board (ARB) has trained generations of weather modification pilots and meteorologists through the North Dakota Cloud Modification Project (NDCMP) internship programs.
The Pilot Internship Program (PIP) and the Meteorology Internship Program (MIP) are administered by ARB. The PIP is provided in conjunction with the University of North Dakota’s (UND) John D. Odegard Schools of Sciences. Whereas, the MIP is managed exclusively by ARB, and students studying atmospheric sciences throughout the United States can apply for this meteorology internship.
Both internship programs are designed to prepare qualified applicants for future employment opportunities in aviation or meteorology. Prospective interns will gain hands-on experience in cloud seeding procedures, pilot-in-command training, weather forecasting education, and radar meteorology understanding.
The PIP started in 1974 with $274,000 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued to UND for an “experimental project training for pilots and weather modification.” The program was a tremendous success from the beginning and has since trained approximately 392 pilots.
The PIP is organized via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ARB and UND. To qualify for an internship, students must possess multi-engine, commercial, and instrument ratings. They must also complete a three-credit course offered in the UND Atmospheric Sciences Department, focusing on cloud seeding science and operations, and be an undergraduate pursuing an aviation-related degree at the university. Students must also be proficient in class attendance, complete extra credit work, and demonstrate overall enthusiasm for field work to be recognized as a well-rounded candidate for the selection process.
Successful applicants are placed as co-pilots in one of five aircraft equipped for cloud seeding operations in western North Dakota each summer. The internship program seeds clouds for hail damage reduction and rain enhancement in Bowman, McKenzie, Mountrail, Williams, and part of Slope County. Each intern will have the chance to rotate through available aircraft types offered on the project in order to maximize the educational opportunity.
Intern meteorologists must be a graduate or undergraduate student pursuing a degree in meteorology or atmospheric science. Chosen applicants are placed either in one of the radar facilities in Bowman or Stanley, or as the intern forecaster in Bismarck. Much like the pilots, meteorologist interns are rotated through each of the facilities to gain broad program experience.
These unique internships continue to provide future generations of pilots and meteorologists with soaring success and help them land rewarding careers in North Dakota and across the nation.
For more information about the program, please go to:
SWC Approves Two-Tier Approval Process For Cost-Share Requests
At the January 2021 Water Commission joint subcommittee meeting, Commissioners discussed two potential revisions to their Project Funding Policy, Procedure, and General Requirements. The revisions were related to modification of the timeframe for project progress reports, and implementation of a two-tiered process for project cost-share approvals. Both concepts were proposed by Commissioners in part to address the agency’s ongoing challenges with project funding carryover from year-to-year, and biennium-to-biennium.
The two-tier cost-share funding process was approved at the February 2021 Commission meeting – effective immediately. Under this scenario, project sponsors first come to the Commission for consideration of pre-construction costs, including plans and specifications for bidding project construction, followed by consideration of construction-related cost-share after completion of pre-construction activities. This does not mean that project sponsors must have their project bid before it’s considered eligible for construction funding. But rather, that it is “bid ready.”
This process is expected to help address situations where funding for pre-construction and construction are approved together, but are subsequently not spent because projects run into obstacles related to permits, easements, land, or funding before they are ready to bid.
The Commission also approved a change to the timeframe when sponsors must provide project updates, from four years to two. Currently, N.D.C.C. 61-02-14.3 requires project sponsors to provide a progress report to the Commission at least every four years if the term of the project exceeds four years. Commissioners suggested a two-year requirement, instead of the current four-year requirement, would make sponsors more accountable to the schedules they present as part of their applications for cost-share.
After that policy change was approved in February, provisions for three-year progress reports to the Legislative Water Topics Overview Committee were added to the agency’s budget bill (HB 1020). Because there could exist the potential for multiple reporting timeframes, the Commission put the two-year reporting timeframe on hold, and will continue to implement the four-year timeframe until more is known following the 2021 Legislative Assembly.