The Red River Valley Water Supply Project
Photo courtesy of the Institute for
Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo.
The Red River Valley in North Dakota is in need of a reliable, high quality water supply. Without a supplemental water supply during times of drought, there would not be enough water to meet the valley’s drinking needs. For this reason, Garrison Diversion is moving forward with the Red River Valley Water Supply Project. The project would use the McClusky Canal and a buried pipeline to convey treated Missouri River water to Lake Ashtabula, where the water would be released down the Sheyenne River when needed by water systems in the valley.
Authorized by the Dakota Water Resources Act
The Dakota Water Resources Act (DWRA) of 2000 authorized the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP) in order to provide a reliable supply of quality drinking water for the Red River Valley. The need for the project arose from the drought-prone Red River. Studies show a severe drought, similar to that of the 1930s, will likely repeat by the year 2050. If this were the case, water supplies in the Red River Valley would be insufficient. For this reason, the RRVWSP was proposed. The DWRA also mandated the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with joint leadership between the federal government and the State of North Dakota. Garrison Diversion was designated by the governor to represent the State of North Dakota in the RRVWSP.
View the Red River Valley Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Reclamation and the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District.
Environmental Impact Statement
Garrison Diversion (representing the State of North Dakota) and the Bureau of Reclamation (representing the federal government) were co-leads in the development of the EIS.
The purpose of the EIS was to evaluate alternatives to meet the long-term water needs of the Red River Valley in North Dakota and three border cities in Minnesota; East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Breckenridge.
Several steps were taken before the Final EIS was developed. First, a Draft EIS was released in December 2005, evaluating eight alternatives to meet the water supply needs of the Red River Valley. In January 2007, the Supplemental Draft EIS was released, containing revisions to the Draft EIS. The Supplemental Draft EIS was written to incorporate responses to comments received on the Draft EIS. Additional analyses relevant to environmental concerns and issues were conducted in response to the comments.
After the additional analysis, the Supplemental Draft EIS eliminated two of the alternatives contained in the Draft EIS from further consideration and identified the GDU Import to the Sheyenne River as the state- and federally-preferred alternative.
The Final EIS was released in December 2007. The document included responses to comments received on the Draft and Supplemental Draft EIS. It also contained a final biological assessment prepared in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, an analysis of forecasted depletions and sedimentation on the Missouri River main stem reservoir system and a review of climate change literature. View Final EIS.
GDU Import to Sheyenne River Chosen as Preferred Alternative
The State of North Dakota and the Bureau of Reclamation each chose the GDU Import to the Sheyenne River as the preferred alternative after considering water permitting and environmental impacts, as well as technical, hydrologic and design evaluations.
The GDU Import to the Sheyenne River Alternative provides positive benefits to the environment and harbors no significant negative environmental impacts. It meets the water needs of the Red River Valley now and in the future. The preferred alternative also provides the core infrastructure for all water systems in the valley, thus, offering the flexibility of future expansion. It has no technical constructability issues and is the least costly of the three Missouri River import alternatives evaluated.
The GDU Import to the Sheyenne River Alternative would transport water through the McClusky Canal and then utilize a buried pipeline from a biota treatment facility to the Sheyenne River north of Lake Ashtabula. Lake Ashtabula would act as a regulating reservoir. From there, water would be released down the Sheyenne River and flow into the Red River, supplying water systems in the Red River Valley with a reliable supply of drinking water.
Comprehensive Report to Congress
In accordance with the DWRA, the Bureau of Reclamation sent a comprehensive report for the proposed project to Congress on December 5, 2008. The report identified the selected alternative, environmental issues, effects on Minnesota and Missouri River states and compliance with the Boundary Waters Treaty.
The project identified by the Secretary of Interior is the GDU Import to the Sheyenne River Alternative. It is the preferred alternative of the Bureau of Reclamation, State of North Dakota and the Lake Agassiz Water Authority.
The project has minimal adverse environmental impacts, with maximum environmental benefits. Fish, mussels, and riparian habitat are improved in the Sheyenne River, and fish habitat is improved in the Red River. A biological assessment completed by the Bureau of Reclamation found that the project is not likely to adversely affect any federally listed species, including two endangered species, the least tern and piping plover.
Minnesota & Missouri River States
Impacts generally would be temporary and associated with construction of the project in North Dakota or would be minimal. The project will not increase erosion on riverbanks, cause flooding or adversely affect aquatic resources in the Red River Basin. The project would augment stream flows in the Sheyenne and Red Rivers and would meet most of the aquatic needs targets recommended by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, which is a beneficial effect for Minnesota.
The project would withdraw about 0.3% of the water stored in the upper Missouri River system main stem reservoirs. Existing water supplies in the Missouri River system would not be affected by the project.
The DWRA required that the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of State and the Environmental Protection Agency determine that adequate water treatment can be provided in the project to meet the requirements of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The treaty addresses issues of water quality and quantity along the border between the United States and Canada. Through a process defined by a Memorandum of Understanding between the three agencies, it was determined that adequate treatment procedures can be provided to meet the requirements of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
The Next Step
Currently, the Red River Valley Water Supply Project is awaiting a record of decision (ROD) from the Secretary of the Interior, and Congressional authorization to use the Missouri River is required.
View the studies and data collected for the Red River Valley Water Supply Project.