Garrison Diversion Committed to North Dakota

Posted: Jul 19 2022
ND Water Magazine - July 2022
By Kimberly Cook

Garrison Diversion Conservancy District Committed to North Dakota

Often when the topic of “Garrison Diversion” is brought up among North Dakotans, the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) is confused with the Garrison Diversion Unit (GDU) Project. Simply put, Garrison Diversion is the local agency responsible for the implementation of a federal project, whose scope has been greatly revised over many years. Read on to learn how Garrison Diversion is committed to improving the quality of life for the citizens of North Dakota.

Garrison Diversion Unit Project
The GDU Project is the result of a federal plan with roots in the Flood Control Act of 1944 (later renamed the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program), which constructed multiple dams on the Missouri River for the purpose of flood control, navigation, irrigation and hydropower. To compensate North Dakota for flooding prime farmland as a result of the dams, the state was promised over a million acres of irrigation.

However, further studies indicated that the soil in northwestern North Dakota was not suitable for irrigation according to federal irrigation standards. As a result, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) revised the diversion plan proposing instead to take water from the Garrison Dam and reservoir to irrigate other lands to the east, and thus became known as the “Garrison Diversion.”

In 1965, federal legislation called for the construction of the Garrison Diversion Unit Principal Supply Works, which included the McClusky Canal, New Rockford Canal and Oakes Test Area. Congress later halted the project, and legislation was reformulated multiple times through the 1986 Reformulation Act and the Dakota Water Resources Act of 2000.

In order to establish, construct, develop, maintain and operate the GDU and all its components, the North Dakota legislature created the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District in 1955. NORTH DAKOTA Century Code (CH.61-24) directs Garrison Diversion to:
  • Promote the establishment, construction, development, maintenance, and operation of the Garrison Diversion Unit, or any part thereof.
  • To make available … waters diverted from the Missouri River for irrigation, domestic, municipal, and industrial needs, and for hydroelectric power, recreation, fish, wildlife, and other beneficial and public uses.
  • To study and provide for the water needs of eastern NORTH DAKOTA communities and water districts and western Minnesota communities through a Red River Valley Water Supply Project.
Garrison Diversion consists of 28 counties, with each county supporting Garrison Diversion’s operations by issuing a one-mill levy and electing a citizen to serve a four-year term on its board of directors. The mission of Garrison Diversion today is to “provide a reliable, high quality and affordable water supply to benefit the people of North Dakota.”

While reliable water supplies are the core of our mission, Garrison Diversion’s focus goes well beyond a dependable drinking water supply. We also aim to provide opportunities for agriculture, recreation and development of North Dakota’s natural resources. 

View the entire article to read more about Garrison Diversion's initiatives.