A Letter From The Director
It’s hard to believe that summer has come and gone already this year and we are already seeing the changing colors of the leaves across the state. With a limited field season in North Dakota, the Department works diligently to keep projects moving forward on all fronts this time of the year. The appropriations the Department received for water development, real-time information and county-led water management programs has helped with future planning of needs, putting infrastructure in the ground, and flight operations for cloud seeding programs with counties based on their requests.
This field season we continued to make progress on construction projects associated with the regional water supply projects that the Department oversees. Construction began on hydraulic improvements for the Southwest Pipeline Project in four different areas including New Hradec, Fairfield, Twin Buttes, and the Killdeer Mountain Service Area. The project includes installation of approximately 18 miles of parallel piping and five booster pump stations that will help serve over 160 new customers. In addition, contracts for procuring membrane equipment and softening equipment for the expansion of the Southwest Water Treatment Plant from six million gallons per day (MGD) to 18 MGD were awarded in June. The contract for the construction of the expansion is expected to start by fall 2024.
Work continued on the construction of the Biota Water Treatment Plant and the South Prairie Raw Water Reservoir and Flow Control Structure that are related to the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) project. In addition, procurement, demolition, and construction contracts are moving forward on the Snake Creek Pumping Plant modifications, along with the construction of the discharge pipeline connecting the Snake Creek Pumping Plant to the NAWS raw water transmission line. These contracts are needed for moving water out of Lake Sakakawea. A significant amount of coordination has taken place with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation in order to move these projects along. The goal is to move water out of Lake Sakakawea by fall 2024 pending any potential delays.
PRESENS (Pushing Remote SENSors) continue to be a high priority for the Department. 159 devices were installed this summer, and close to 50 more will be installed through the fall. Several of the devices will include soil and precipitation monitoring sites. Over 450 sites will record real-time information over the winter months that will help with water management decisions across the state.
Cloud seeding for the season began June 1 and concluded the beginning of September. Overall, flight hours totaled about 285, with 160 flown for dual-purpose seeding (hail suppression and rain enhancement), about 79 hours for hail suppression, and just over 13 hours for rain enhancement. In addition, five UND Aerospace intern co-pilots were hired for the summer, along with three intern meteorologists.
As we prepare for the winter months, the Department will continue to make progress on working with the State Water Commission as they approve cost-share requests for important water projects throughout the state. The Department will also work on collaborative strategies related to future water needs and water management initiatives that will benefit the citizens of North Dakota.
Again, as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or other DWR team members if you have questions or concerns about anything that is being worked on in the Department. We continue to work towards our mission to responsibly manage North Dakota’s water needs and risks for the people’s benefit. Now hopefully you can get outside and enjoy this fall weather and take in the sights of the changing leaves along the waterbodies in North Dakota.
We are making our way to autumn in the Dakotas: harvest of crops and livestock, preparation for winter months, and the annual transition of landscapes to brown and eventually white. It's a resting time for the landscape to rejuvenate and prepare for another growing season.
I have been overwhelmed with the volume of activity presented before water commissioners, still absorbing the extensive topics covered in our meetings and communication around the state. Providing domestic water to communities and rural areas, balancing increasing demand for industrial water and energy production, flood control, and expanding Missouri River delivery for water supply keeps the water team on their toes. I’m proud to be part of a professional and efficient organization dealing with water needs in our state.
While the bulk of the efforts are directed to water distribution for rural areas and municipalities the Water Resource's professional staff deals with channel clearing, flood control, storage systems and infrastructure buildout, and repairs. The demand is extensive, and projects are experiencing approvals and buildout thanks to a robust resurgence in the state's economy.
One area close to my heart is water development and improvement in the livestock industry. North Dakota is rapidly transcending to models that utilize intensive grazing systems to better utilize forage and support biodiversity in soils. Cellular grazing is becoming commonplace as operators look for ways to improve soil health and utilize grass growth to capture and utilize carbon in the soils.
Cellular grazing moves cattle on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule to promote biodiversity in the soils and protect sensitive grass species. Each cell requires fresh and accessible water for livestock with many operators building an extensive network of pipelines and tanks to ensure sufficient water. Many of these systems operate on public lands under the direction of grazing associations to encourage livestock to move on to new grazing while resting other areas.
Recent studies indicate range immediately adjacent to water sources is 70 percent utilized, while range 2.5 miles from water is just 10 percent utilized. In addition, the quality of water accessible to livestock is directly tied to the amount of forage they consume. Providing good-quality water can even improve herd health. Producers have become painfully aware of the importance of water. In recent years, they've dealt with severe drought and elevated levels of sulfates and green algae in stock dams and streams in drought areas.
Drought management with livestock water development through DWR and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture programs, combined with appropriate management, have increased the carrying capacity of grasslands operations. This allows for an increase in herd size and increased drought resistance with stockpiled forages.
It's exciting to see ranchers working with local water districts and regional systems such as the Western Area Water Supply and Southwest Water to take on past drought challenges and develop systems to be prepared for the next dry cycles.
Jeff Frith Appointed To State Water Commission
During the State Water Commission meeting on August 10, a new State Water Commissioner was announced. Jeff Frith was appointed by Governor Burgum to serve as the new Devils Lake Basin Commissioner. Frith brings a wealth of knowledge related to Devils Lake Basin water and land management issues.
“There’s a lot of issues that will be addressed in the coming years with the State Water Commission,” Frith said, “such as supplying good clean affordable water to citizens regardless of where they live in the state of North Dakota.”
He would also like to enhance the state’s ability to irrigate. “I think irrigation is a key component for a good strong agricultural community,” Frith said.
Frith grew up primarily in Devils Lake, graduated high school there, and lives there now. He and his wife Shari have been married for 33 years. They have a 23-year-old son, Spencer.
He’s a member of several organizations and is employed as the Manager of the Devils Lake Joint Water Resource Board. The board’s biggest challenge is to mitigate the fluctuation of Devils Lake water levels. He’s also been a Ramsey County Commissioner since 2016 and is currently serving as the commission chair.
“I’m very humbled and appreciative of the appointment,” Frith said. “Looking forward to working with other commissioners, delivering the promises of water development throughout the state of North Dakota.”
Sidike (Sid) recently joined the agency as a hydrologist in the Water Appropriation Division. He will primarily work on evaluating and perfecting water permits. He is a “data guy” who is excited to use robust data like puzzle pieces to make decisions that affect the bigger picture of North Dakota water resources.
Sid grew up in the northwest part of China and earned his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from Central South University in Changsha, China. He then moved to the United States where he earned his master’s degree in geological engineering from the University of North Dakota (UND).
He began his career with the state of North Dakota working at the Department of Environmental Quality as an environmental engineer. He focused on issuing permits regarding air quality. Sid had more interest and collegiate training in hydrology and groundwater modeling, so a move to DWR made sense for him.
Sid is a Uyghur origin from northwest (Xinjiang) China near Tibet. His wife, Imene, is from Algeria, Africa. They met at UND and just welcomed their first child in April, a son named Rami.
Sid is an outdoorsman who enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking. He’s an avid reader. He also values his time with family and friends.
Justin recently joined the agency as the Southwest Pipeline Project Manager. He will plan and direct the design and construction of projects, work with the Southwest Water Authority on system needs and issues, and plan future projects. He will be the public face and go-to for questions about the project and represent the project at public meetings.
Justin is looking forward to growing his knowledge in water treatment and distribution systems and implementing that knowledge to best execute the important water projects that make up the Southwest Pipeline Project.
Justin grew up in Kenmare, ND and graduated high school there. He earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering - both from North Dakota State University.
Before working at DWR, Justin was the City Engineer for the city of Mandan. In that role, he was responsible for planning and executing all infrastructure projects for Mandan.
Justin and his wife, Michaela, have four kids: Aspen (6), Everett (6), Jensen (4), and Maiken (9 months). Justin enjoys camping, going to the YMCA with his kids, and having fun at home with his family. He also plays golf, recreation league basketball, and softball.
Abigail recently changed positions at DWR to become a Cost-Share Program Manager in the Planning and Education Division. Previously, she was a Hydrologist Manager with the Water Appropriation Division for nine years. Abigail enjoys helping people and organizations advance their water projects, so moving to the Cost-Share Program will bring new opportunities, and will provide a different perspective regarding water project development.
2023 JAMES AND SHEYENNE WATERSHED INSTITUTE A SUCCESS
Teachers from across the state participated in the 2023 Discover Today’s Watershed Institute in Valley City in July. The primary purpose of the institute is to allow participants to experience current watershed management and water resource issues in different North Dakota watersheds. This year’s institute focused on the James and Sheyenne Rivers. The various learning experiences offered included presentations, discussions, field activities, tours, and environmental investigations.
While exploring the issues and identifying solutions, the participants received user friendly instruction from Project WET Facilitators, resource professionals, scientists, and presenters that address water issues daily. By the end of the institute, participants have an increased knowledge, skills, motivation, and commitment to teach about North Dakota’s water resources through an understanding of the economic, science, and social watershed issues.
Let’s hear from the participants regarding their experience at the Watershed Institute.
May Blue, High School Teacher, Bottineau ND
The instructors are a big reason I continue to come back to this class. Instructors are fun and seem to care about each and every one that takes this class. Thank you for a very enjoyable week. Wow! What a fantastic week of resources to utilize in my classes. Tons of information learned from all the presenters and speakers.
Kyle Engdahl, 6th Grade Teacher, Fargo, ND
I have much more knowledge on how the James and Sheyenne watersheds affect a huge portion of North Dakota. I was not sure how much new information I would pick up from the Institute. I have learned so much more than I ever thought I would! This institute was much more exciting and informative than I was anticipating! The trips to the various sites and guest speakers were the best part! I would attend again!
Cal Potter, High School Teacher, Fargo ND
I had no idea how cool, interesting, awesome and intriguing this institute would be. The variety of activities - to the amazing facilitators. 10 out of 10, five stars, would 100% recommend. I knew a decent amount before participating in this institute but walked out with a wealth of knowledge. I can’t wait to share it with others!
Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Program Wrap-Up
As of the end of July 2023, there were no open or pending projects associated with the 2021 Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Program (Program) activation. Over the course of the 2021 Program, DWR approved $6.1 million for 1,577 projects, involving 1,115 producers. Of these projects that were initially approved, 1,216 projects were completed by 826 producers in 50 of North Dakota’s 53 counties. The total amount of cost-share reimbursement provided was $4.79 million.
Throughout the program, DWR team members conducted 122 inspections of completed projects. DWR believes this is an important component of the Program not only for project verification purposes, but it is also an opportunity to meet with project applicants and it provides a face to the Program.
Check out these pictures of completed projects that were installed by producers across the state that will help to make North Dakota’s livestock industry more resilient to future drought conditions.
New to the 2023-2025 biennium is the Cost-Share Program project map. This map is presented as a convenient tool for project sponsors and the general public to track state funded water projects throughout the state. Projects receiving cost-share dollars will be added to the map, along with funding amounts and a brief description of the project scope. The map can be found on the Water Development Plan and Dashboard under the Purpose Funding tab.
Water Commission Approves $180 Million for Red River Valley Water Supply Project
At the August 10, 2023, State Water Commission (SWC) meeting chaired by Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller, the SWC approved $190.8 million in cost-share requests, including $180 million for the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (GDCD) to advance the next stages of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP).
The 2023 Legislative Assembly included $180 million for the RRVWSP in Senate Bill 2020 (the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and SWC budget bill). It is the largest single approval the SWC has ever considered. To address the local cost-share portion of the RRVWSP approval, the SWC also authorized GDCD to seek $60 million in loans via the Water Infrastructure Revolving Loan Fund (WIRLF) through the Bank of North Dakota.
When completed, the RRVWSP will deliver Missouri River water to central and eastern North Dakota via canal and pipeline to a discharge point in the Sheyenne River. When the project is fully operational, the RRVWSP will ultimately help serve water to half of North Dakota’s population, including Fargo and Grand Forks. Estimated completion is in 6-10 years. The total project cost is approximately $1.4 billion.
”The Red River Valley Water Supply Project is vitally important to the long-term sustainability and success of our citizens, our communities and the economy in central and eastern North Dakota, providing benefits to half of our state’s population and strengthening North Dakota as a whole,” Miller said. “We’re grateful to Governor Burgum for championing this critical infrastructure project, the Legislature for funding it and the local communities for investing in their future with matching dollars.”
The $180 million grant and $60 million in WIRLF loans were requested for construction costs involving 27 miles of transmission pipeline; final design costs for 40 miles of additional transmission pipeline; and preliminary design costs for the McClusky Intake and Pump Station, the Biota Water Treatment Plant and storage tanks.
”The Red River Valley Water Supply Project is essential to serve the central and eastern side of our state during drought conditions,” said Andrea Travnicek, DWR Director. “We are proud to support sustainable and resilient water infrastructure like this project and others that put the Missouri River to beneficial use for our citizens, industry and overall economy.”
The SWC also approved project requests for municipal water supply, rural water supply and emergency flood protection. Approximately $5.9 million was approved for municipal water supply projects in Drayton, Mandan, Napoleon, St. John and Underwood; $3.6 million was approved for two rural water supply projects sponsored by Dakota and Stutsman Rural Water Districts; and $1.4 million was approved for an emergency flood protection project in Jamestown.
During the meeting, a new State Water Commissioner was announced. Jeff Frith was appointed by Governor Burgum to serve as the new Devils Lake Basin Commissioner. Frith manages the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board and brings a wealth of knowledge related to Devils Lake Basin water and land management issues.
ECONOMIC COST OF AQUATIC NUISANCE SPECIES
In the past decade, North Dakota has experienced an increase in the presence of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS). These non-native organisms pose significant risks, as their introduction into our aquatic ecosystems can lead to environmental disruptions, economic consequences, and even public health hazards. Moreover, they threaten established habitats, recreational fisheries, and communities dependent on lakes and rivers for water supply.
Notably, the zebra mussel, a bivalve species, has been a prominent ANS concern. Zebra mussel veligers (larval offspring) were initially detected in the Red River watershed in 2010, followed by the discovery of adult specimens in 2015. Subsequent infestations have arisen in previously unaffected waters. Specifically, zebra mussels were identified in Lake Ashtabula and Lake Elsie within the Red River watershed in 2019 and 2021, respectively. And in the James River watershed, a sub-watershed of the Missouri River basin, detections occurred in Lake Lamour and Twin Lake in 2020 and 2021. As of now, no invasive bivalves have been confirmed beyond the James River watershed within the Missouri River watershed of North Dakota.
With the zebra mussel incursion now established in North Dakota, the risk of further expansion reaches an unprecedented level. Water bodies with the highest recreational, economic, and intrinsic value are particularly susceptible to fresh introductions. Many of these vital water resources may expose water infrastructure to zebra mussel transmission through surface attachment to boats and equipment moving between water bodies, including the potential transport of veligers in residual water.
The implications of this invasion are twofold. Once established, zebra mussels can accumulate densities of up to 100,000 individuals per square foot. This density obstructs intakes, screens, and pipes, while complicating mechanical control efforts. Even if chemically eradicated, the carcasses continue to impede flow, valves, and seals, necessitating defouling or manual removal. Grasping the rapid proliferation and potential consequences paints a concerning picture for water managers.
The confirmation of breeding zebra mussels in new regions of the state underscores the urgency of vigilance and proactive measures to safeguard our lakes, rivers, streams, and water infrastructure. It also emphasizes the need to enhance communication regarding at-risk infrastructure and economic values, as potential infestations could have financial repercussions for future local operational budgets and state funding programs.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently concluded an economic study of the potential costs associated with zebra mussel colonization in North Dakota. The study estimates annual expenses linked to zebra mussel infestations for the state and five major drainage basins (Missouri, Mouse, James, Red, and Devils Lake). Then, within each of those regional areas, impacts are estimated for six distinct economic usage categories. They include irrigation, water treatment, thermoelectric power, mining, industrial and hydropower.
DWR’s vision is to sustainably manage and develop North Dakota’s water resources for the health, safety, and prosperity of its people, businesses, agriculture, energy, industry, recreation, and natural resources. In support of this vision, DWR is committed to ongoing cooperative efforts that are aimed at controlling and preventing negative impacts of ANS to North Dakota’s water resources.
If you are interested in reviewing the full study, it is available at dwr.nd.gov. Or, if you have questions or would like additional information, please call (701) 328-4989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The October 12, 2023 Commission Meeting will be in Grand Forks in the City Council Chambers at 1PM.
An option to attend remotely will be provided.
Join Our Team
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) was created in 2021 by Legislative action. DWR was previously called the State Water Commission, which itself was created by Legislative action in 1937 for the specific purpose of fostering and promoting water resources development throughout the state.