A Letter From The Director
As we start off the new year, I want to thank all the water managers, State Water Commissioners, and dedicated DWR team members for their great work in assisting with managing water resources across the state. We have much to be proud of for everything that was accomplished in 2023.
Starting the year off, DWR successfully worked with the Legislature to secure resources that provide citizens access to reliable water, protection of homes and infrastructure, and opportunities for gathering important data that will lead to more efficient processes and timely decision-making. In addition, Tribal Nations within North Dakota are now eligible to receive cost-share directly from the Department and the Commission instead of partnering with a political subdivision. Check out our other achievements in the following article in The Current, 2023: A Year in Review.
This fall, DWR, SWC, and the Bank of North Dakota worked closely with the North Dakota Irrigation Association to review and gather input related to cost-share and loan programs associated with the development of irrigation projects in North Dakota. After receiving nine comments from various stakeholders, DWR recommended, and the SWC approved increasing irrigation cost-share from up to 50% to up to 75%, and also increasing DWR’s matching funds through the AgPace loan interest buy-down program from $20,000 to $40,000. In combination with BND’s $20,000, producers are now eligible for irrigation equipment loan interest buy-down totaling $60,000. We look forward to continuing to work with the Irrigation Association and landowners on further development of irrigation in the State.
This fall, DWR also continued work on a project related to managed aquifer recharge (MAR) potential in North Dakota. This project is the first step to ranking and mapping aquifers in North Dakota for their MAR potential. Once completed early in 2024, DWR will review and work towards further evaluating those aquifers with strong MAR potential. This information will be important for future decision-making related to aquifer management and water supply within the state.
Additionally, DWR kicked off the new year with an educational campaign related to aquifers in the state. There seems to be some misconceptions related to groundwater resources as they relate to development and access across North Dakota, therefore DWR will provide monthly information related to aquifers over the next six months. Be sure to get signed up here to participate and receive a certificate at the end!
Finally, it is already time to start planning for the 2025-2027 legislative session. DWR will be working with stakeholders, legislators, and the Governor’s office to identify potential century code changes and also determine budget needs for the upcoming biennium. Through the 2025 Water Development Plan process, which will begin in January and run through the summer, stakeholders can provide feedback on cost-share policy as well as submitting projects in need of funding during the 2025-2027 biennium. DWR will also provide information through the Interim Water Topics Committee and participate in the Governor’s Strategic Review process. If anyone has any thoughts or ideas for consideration, do not hesitate to reach out to us.
As always, DWR is here to assist in managing water resources across the state by working with all of you. Our team continues to work towards openness and transparency, while also improving processes to better suit your needs. Please reach out if you have ideas, questions, or concerns related to the operations of the Department.
2023: A Year In Review
The North Dakota Department of Water Resources (DWR) had a productive year in 2023. The department made significant progress on several projects, put enhanced policies in place, captured millions of data points, and continued to strive toward their goal to responsibly manage North Dakota’s water needs and risks for the people’s benefit. Each of the divisions (Water Development, Appropriations, Regulatory, Planning and Education, Atmospheric Resource Board (ARB), and Administration) had significant achievements in 2023.
DWR made significant progress on the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) Project and Southwest Pipeline Project (SWPP). NAWS progress included service to the city of Westhope, advancements at the Biota Water Treatment Plant and Minot Water Treatment Plant, and modifications to the Snake Creek Pumping Plant. On the SWPP, progress was made on increasing hydraulic capacity in four different areas: New Hradec, Fairfield, Twin Buttes, and Killdeer Mountain Service Area. Advancement was also made towards the migration of the treatment plant capacity at Dickinson by procuring the necessary equipment for the expansion.
The department also operated the Devils Lake outlets to provide ongoing flood relief for areas surrounding the greater Devils Lake system. The outlets removed approximately 88,000 acre-feet of floodwater during the 2023 operating season. Since outlet operations began 16 years ago in 2007, over 1.4 million acre-feet of floodwater has been removed from the lake.
Additionally, the Western Area Water Supply Project was brought under the State Water Commission following the 2023 Legislative Assembly, and the NAWS Advisory Committee was elevated to a NAWS Authority.
Planning and Education
DWR completed a Basic Asset Inventory Assessment (BAIA) and Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) guidance document and fillable electronic workbook. It will be a requirement for water supply construction project sponsors to submit BAIA and CIP with their cost-share applications beginning July 2024. By conducting BAIA and CIP, sponsors are better positioned to raise or save capital to support their infrastructure maintenance and replacement needs for the foreseeable future.
DWR worked cooperatively with North Dakota’s Tribal Nations, Indian Affairs Commission, and other North Dakota water user groups on the passage of HB 1385. HB 1385 allows for the State Water Commission to enter into agreements with Tribal Nations – allowing them to access the Department of Water Resources and Water Commission Cost-Share Program to advance critical water infrastructure in Tribal communities.
Over the course of the last year, the DWR provided state funding support of approximately $277 million (M) in Water Commission project approvals through the Cost-Share Program. This included $263M for water supply projects in 24 cities and 18 rural/regional systems, where approximately 4,500 new water users can be supported; and $14M for 61 different flood protection, water conveyance, and general water projects benefiting citizens across the state.
In 2023, the DWR requested and received over $2M from the State Water Commission (SWC) to partner with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to update over 250 stream gage data with state of the practice methodology, update characteristics in USGS’s Stream Stats platform, and update the regional regression equations for the state.
The North Dakota Dam Safety Standards were released for public comment in Fall 2023, resulting in over 300 comments to help enhance the standards before final publication. These were finalized in early 2024.
The DWR was successful during the 2023 Legislative Session in advancing five Red Tape Reduction bills, including providing clarity when a construction permit is required for the construction of a dike in North Dakota.
The Water Appropriation Division continued to expand the role of the PRESENS (Pushing REmote SENSors) data collection platform during 2023. The division deployed a total of 536 PRESENS sites through the 2023 field season, of which 35 now include precipitation data and 34 include soils data. The division plans to expand this network over the next couple of field seasons to include more than 1,200 sites across the state. In addition to expanding the number of PRESENS sites, many of the existing sites are currently being evaluated for purposes of expanding data collection to include soils and/or precipitation.
The Water Appropriation Division also responded to the industrial demand for surface water in western North Dakota while balancing this demand with the protection of the resource and prior appropriators. Throughout the state in 2023, the division issued a total of 528 temporary water permits, including 42 for irrigation, 56 for road construction, and 366 for industrial water depots. Additionally, 41 conditional water permits were approved and 63 permits were perfected. The number of both temporary and conditional permits issued increased compared to 2022.
DWR extended its collaboration with the South Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA) regarding cloud seeding research and operations. The DWR and KMA believe there are long-term mutual benefits in expanding their partnership in the future.
Administrative team members led efforts in conceptualizing and executing the DWR’s personnel policy manual. Additionally, the DWR pioneered a streamlined onboarding and offboarding process for team members and successfully transitioned from traditional paper-based annual reviews to a more efficient online annual review system.
DWR collaborated with the Bank of North Dakota to optimize investment income potential for funds mandated to be deposited at the bank.
Administration also orchestrated the relocation of the agency from the State Office Building to Job Service on a temporary basis for two months, culminating in the establishment of a permanent base at the Bank of North Dakota. The Administrative Division adeptly managed the movement of furniture to the Bank or Surplus Property, transferred agency publications to the Historical Society, maintained rigorous record management practices, and coordinated the remodel of the department’s shop location to permanently house team members - all accomplished seamlessly without any interruption to agency operations.
KNOW YOUR AQUIFER
In January, DWR is launched a “Know Your Aquifer” educational campaign. The goal of the “Know Your Aquifer” campaign is to help North Dakotans better understand concepts related to aquifers, groundwater resources, and their management and use.
As part of this effort, DWR will produce different educational materials once per month for six months. And, all of this information can be received via email! Emails began in January, and they will include fact sheets, graphics, photos, and videos.
Know Your Aquifer campaign topic areas include:
- What an aquifer is;
- Aquifer types by region;
- Ground water exploration and study;
- Permitting and water rights;
- Monitoring, PRESENS, and monitoring wells;
- And more!
Click here to sign up for Know Your Aquifer informational emails.
FREE NFIP Publications Available!
Communities, insurance agents, and the public can order publications related to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) free of charge through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Those interested can complete the NFIP Publication Order Form, found at the link below, and submit the order through one of the options offered. This is a great resource for communities and insurance agents, saving them money by not having to print the publications themselves.
Communities participating in the NFIP should consider keeping some NFIP publications on hand at all times in case community residents have questions. Insurance agents selling flood insurance may want to have various insurance related documents on hand to explain flood insurance more thoroughly.
As an example, one of the newer publications released from FEMA is the handbook “Recovering Financially After a Flood.” The handbook compares flood insurance and disaster assistance to help community residents better understand the important differences to help accelerate recovery after flooding. The link to the handbook is below and is also available through the NFIP Publication Order Form.
FEMA regularly updates these publications as needed. The DWR recommends only ordering what you expect to use within 12 months to keep resources current. Several of the publications are also available for non-English speaking community members.
NEW WATER & CONSTRUCTION PERMIT APPLICATION STATUS PAGE
DWR has launched a Water Permit and Construction Permit Status webpage. The purpose of this new tool is to 1) allow water permit applicants to look up the permits for which they’ve applied, and to see where those permits are in relation to priority with other permits, and 2) for construction permit applicants to quickly find their permit application, view its status, and review other associated information. The application status webpage was created for greater public transparency to the DWR water appropriation and construction permitting processes.
To access the new permit status page, click here.
2025 Water Development Plan
Notice to Potential Project Sponsors
In accordance with NDCC 61-02-01.3, the Planning and Education Division at the Department of Water Resources will begin the process of developing a 2025 Water Development Plan – focusing on the 2025-2027 biennium and beyond. In late January 2024, staff will send notice to potential project sponsors, directing them to our online submission form which asks for their help in identifying the water development projects and programs they are trying to move forward. As in the past, the input gained from local project sponsors and water managers will become the foundation of the Department of Water Resources’ budget request to the Governor and Legislature.
NDCC 61-02-01.3 also requires the Water Commission to schedule Commissioner-hosted meetings within North Dakota’s major drainage basins. The purpose of the meetings is to promote and encourage local project sponsor participation in the water planning process, and in the agency’s water project development efforts. A total of eight meetings will be held – one in each of the Commissioners’ respective basins.
In addition, the passage of HB 1385 during the 2023 Legislative Assembly allows the Water Commission to enter into cost-share agreements with Tribal Nations. Since this is relatively new, contacts will be initiated with Tribal Nations to see if they have interest in meeting to discuss water development planning and project funding opportunities.
The department has set a deadline for project information submittals for the end of April. After projects have been submitted, they will then be reviewed and prioritized by staff and presented to Commissioners for final review. A draft inventory will then be developed for the Commissioner-hosted meetings and sponsor review.
N.D. Administrative Code Changes
The DWR and ND Board of Water Well Contractors are seeking public input on proposed changes to N.D. Administrative Code titles 89 and 90. Public comments will be open until 5pm on February 5, 2024 and can be sent to email@example.com.
The purpose of the proposed changes are to implement statutory changes and provide clarifications to existing code provisions and regulatory processes.
Public hearings will be held for both sets of proposed rules on January 26, 2024 both virtually and in-person at 1200 Memorial Highway in Bismarck. Links to the proposed changes and virtual attendance for the hearings can be found at dwr.nd.gov.
Updated Dam Safety Standards
The North Dakota Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued its final version of the Dam Safety Standards that became effective for all new dam construction permits and modifications January 1, 2024.
The standards outline the administrative and technical requirements necessary to obtain a construction permit that complies with DWR’s dam safety focus. All dams, ponds, lagoons and other similar water retention structures must meet the minimum requirements identified in the standards to obtain a construction permit from DWR. The standards also provide useful information for the design of dams that do not require a construction permit from the DWR.
The standards update the 1985 Dam Design Handbook with state-of-the-practice requirements and processes. They incorporate and replace DWR’s 2016 Emergency Action Plan Guidelines and 2022 Probable Maximum Precipitation Guidance. Further, the standards integrate the 2023 Hazard Classification Review process from DWR’s Hazard Classification and Legacy Dam Policy. Alongside this effort, the Hazard Classification and Legacy Dam Policy has been updated to remove the previous hazard classification review process and now focuses solely on the legacy dam process.
DWR, in partnership with RJH Consultants, will be providing standards review and training workshops for both dam owners and dam engineers in early 2024. Scheduling information will be posted at www.dwr.nd.gov when it becomes available.
Vanessa recently joined the agency as a Water Resources Planner. She will do environmental review administration and coordination, assist with information and education publication development, implement the Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Assistance Program when activated, and assist with other agency water management and development responsibilities. She is looking forward to enhancing her project management experience.
Vanessa was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and recently spent a few years in San Antonio. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science at Iowa State University and a master’s degree in water resource policy and management at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma.
Before working at DWR, she worked for a major water utility company as a Water Conservation Coordinator. As extreme drought persists in the Hill Country, she established and managed conservation programs for the utility. One example was a free Irrigation Check-Up Program which ensured customers’ irrigation systems functioned properly and efficiently. She also supported drought planning and managed enforcement measures.
Vanessa has a daughter, Catalina, who just turned 4 in November. They love to spend time outdoors on walking trails and going to the park.
Alexis recently joined the agency as the Investigations Section Chief in the Water Development Division. The Investigations Section conducts preliminary engineering studies, provides hydrologic and hydraulic technical expertise for the state, manages flood response efforts, collects surface elevation and water survey data throughout the state, manages the Devils Lake emergency outlets, and provides oversight of Missouri River and Mouse River water management issues.
Alexis grew up in Mandan, ND and graduated high school there. She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of North Dakota.
Her career has centered on surface water hydrology and hydraulics. She has previous experience with DWR, serving North Dakota as a Dam Safety Engineer and a Water Resource Engineer. Most recently, she was a Water Resource Engineer at Barr Engineering. She focused on developing hydraulic models and conducting hydraulic analyses to inform erosion and sediment risks, dam rehabilitation projects, and flood mitigation design.
Alexis and her husband, Nick, have a 7-month-old daughter, Medora. Alexis enjoys hiking, kayaking, and traveling. She is thrilled to be back at DWR with familiar (and some new) faces. She’s excited to have a wonderful team to work with in North Dakota’s world of water.
Travis Thyberg recently joined the agency as a Project Support Assistant. He will contribute to various functions of the Water Development Division by providing administrative support, conducting project research, generating data reports, managing data, offering accounting support, providing field assistance, and managing assets.
Travis grew up on his family farm near Washburn, ND. After graduating from Washburn High School, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of West Alabama. He then joined the Peace Corps and spent four years in Zambia, Africa, promoting aquaculture. After Africa, he returned to academics and received a master’s degree from the University of Miami.
Prior to joining DWR, Travis spent time working with the State of Hawaii on invasive species management and more recently served as an assistant to the Director at the Headquarters of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Protected Resources Office in Washington, D.C.
Travis moved back to North Dakota to spend more time with his father. Currently, much of his free time is occupied with improvements to his family farmstead but he would love to get back into photography and hunting.
Joe recently changed positions at DWR to become a Water Resource Engineer Manager, acting as the Design and Construction Section Chief for the Water Development Division. Previously, he was a Water Resource Engineer with the Regulatory Division for three years. Joe has prior experience in design and construction and is looking forward to using those skills again. He is eager to work with the DWR construction team as they prepare for the next construction season.
Commission Meeting Approvals
October 12, 2023
- Foster County: Foster County Drain #1 - $270,407
- ND DEQ: Best Management Practices Team Ph. IV/V - $200,000
- Western Area Water Supply: Stanley Rural Distribution Part 2 - $444,400
- Central Plains Water District: Maddock Connection - $134,055
- East Central Rural Water: Phase 6 Expansion - $641,250
- Mandan: Collins Reservoir Replacement - $93,420
- New Town: Phase I Improvements - $2,279,637
- Greater Ramsey Water District: North System Improvements - $3,999,360
In other actions, the Water Commission approved requests from sponsors seeking loans through the Bank of North Dakota from the Water Infrastructure Revolving Loan Fund. Loan requests were from Bottineau County Water Resource District for their Stone Creek Lateral B project in the amount of $363,000; and from Pembina County Water Resource District for their Drain 34 project in the amount of $929,000.
December 8, 2023
- Neche: Highway 18 Project - $98,742
- Trail County WRD: Blanchard-Normal Drain 23-40 Improvements - $157,284
- Maple River WRD: Cass Drain 34 Improvements - $643,376
- Barnes County WRD: Little Dam Improvements - $814,500
- Minot: Westfield Water Main Replacements - $108,480
- Minot: University Avenue Water Main Replacements - $108,480
- Valley City: Water Main Improvements - $479,625
- Cass Rural Water: Reservoir D Supply Pipeline - $270,000
- Southeast Water Users District: West Water Treatment Plant Improvements - $927,270
- Agassiz Water Users District: 2022 Expansion Ph. 2 - $3,289,340
DWR Team Member Acknowledgements
Several DWR team members were acknowledged for their work during the annual DWR 2023 Holiday and Awards Celebration.
Years of Service Awards are given to team members who have served the state for three years and multiples of five.
- Joseph Morrissette
- Ryan Novak
- Kathryn Arneson
- Ryan Wolbert
- Courtney Evoniuk
- Bassel Timani
- Tyler Spomer
- Jeffrey Trana
- Matthew Lindsay
- Joe Nett
- Sheila Fryer
- Tina Harding
- Dan McDonald
- Dale Binstock
- Jerry Heiser
- Rod Bassler
Outstanding Performance Awards were given out to team members who went above and beyond in 2023.
- Abby Ebach
- Dan Brothers
- Ben Gehrig
- Yaping Chi
- Darron Nichols
- Bryan Hanson
- Duane Pool
- Cory Drevecky
The Excellence In Teamwork Award was earned by the Data and Technology Technicians.
- Albert Lachenmeier
- Neil Martwick
- Terry McCann
- Tracy Arneson
- Ryan Novak
For their collective efforts related to the data and technology of the Department of Water Resources and supporting one of the most comprehensive water resource data networks in the world. These technicians play a vital role that supports the foundation of all the water resource management initiatives for the Department of Water Resources. Their attention to detail ensures the fieldwork is done correctly and efficiently, while providing high quality data for hydrologists, the public, and other stakeholders. This Team exemplifies the true nature of succeeding as a team by working together with genuine collaboration and support each other.
Leadership Everywhere Award
Kelli Schroeder - For embracing the principals of leadership everywhere by routinely demonstrating the Department of Water Resources’ core values of providing service to others through utilization of her unique skills and knowledge to help co-workers and Team ND members enrich their individual and collective talents and to be successful in their endeavors.
Karen Heinert - For embracing the principals of leadership everywhere by routinely demonstrating the Department of Water Resources’ core values to providing service to others through utilization of her unique skills and knowledge to help co-workers and Team ND members enrich their individual and collective talents and to be successful in their endeavors.
DWR Professionalism Award - TOP HONOR
Jerry Heiser earned DWR's top honor - the Professionalism Award! - For outstanding performance in the support of the mission of the Department of Water Resources and for projecting a positive image of himself and the department. For managing North Dakota’s sovereign lands, held in trust for all current and future North Dakotans by the State. This recognition by co-workers acknowledges a job exceptionally well done.