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Water system ground-breaking is milestone in Emmons County history; work underway

Posted 9/01/10 (Wed)

Featured speaking at the 11:30 a.m. event that included lunch under a tent that flopped in the prairie wind was U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy. Congressman Pomeroy and U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad moved legislation through Congress that has secured $29 million in federal grants and loans for the project to bring safe, clean drinking water to Emmons County.
He reminisced that he had grown up with bad water, hauling it pail by pail to his family’s farm house and watering livestock by hand.
The project has received over $21 million in federal grants (stimulus funds) from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and over $7 million
in federal loans backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Agency.
“Ensuring that North Dakota families and communities have access to clean, safe drinking water is an important health priority,” said Congressman Pomeroy. “I am pleased federal grants and loans are making this important expansion of clean drinking water into Emmons County a reality. This is an investment in our community’s health, and also in future growth for this region.”
He noted that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds helped make this project a reality. Once completed, it will serve the towns of Linton, Strasburg, Hague and Braddock in Emmons County along with over 650 rural customers in the county and supplement the water supply for the State Line Water Co-op.
The Emmons County project is expected to be completed by the end of 2012, at which time expansions into McIntosh and Logan counties will begin. Later, there are plans for Kidder County.
Congressman Pomeroy also helped secure an additional $9 million in federal funding for South Central Regional Water District in fiscal year 2010 to help with the expansion..
“Today we celebrate an investment in Emmons County that will help this region grow and thrive for years to come,” Congressman Pomeroy said. Congressman Pomeroy noted he has long been the lead Democratic champion in the U.S. House of Representatives behind bipartisan efforts advocating for federal funding for rural water system initiatives. When the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget called for deep cuts for rural water programs, Congressman Pomeroy fought back successfully to keep federal funding for these initiatives in the House Agriculture Subcommittee Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2011.
As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, Congressman Pomeroy has worked closely with USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider to ensure that North Dakota has the resources it needs to provide safe, clean drinking water for rural communities.
A long-held dream
South Central Board President Joe LaFave of Bismarck, who is a native of Emmons County and a graduate of Pollock High School, emceed the event. He called the day “very special” and noted that the board has been working on bringing a rural water treatment facility to Emmons County for 10 years.
“All the hours of research, planning and discussions have finally come to life,” LaFave said.
He thanked the board for their efforts. Serving with him are Dan Rouse, Mark Kinzler, Jan Hoge, Steve Ellefson, Greg Larson and Dave Lang.
LaFave praised South Central Executive Director Doug Neibauer and his staff for the “vision and commitment to keep this project alive.”
He added, “You worked tireless and often sacrificed time with your families to meet the deadlines.”
Neibauer addressed the crowd, recounting the steps in the process to move the project forward.
“Thanks to federal stimulus funds, this project will be completed three years earlier than planned,” Neibauer said.
He explained that the unexpected stimulus funds had to be committed quickly or lost, so there was a scramble to find contractors and to secure the loan money to cover South Central’s 25 percent share of the $25 million project.
Neibauer led a moment of silence in memory of several directors who helped in the early stages of the project but who did not live to see the ground-breaking.
He pointed out equipment working off in the distance to the north to install the pipeline from the water intake, and he noted that drilling and other work has begun in the vicinity of the Ohlhauser boat ramp on the intake structure.
Neibauer thanked the board, staff, local, state and federal officials and all of the people in the communities for making the project a reality.
Marion Houn of U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan’s staff read a letter from the Senator and recounted his efforts to win funding for the project. He is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee that handles water project funding and was instrumental in securing funds in the Senate.
She noted that Sen. Dorgan’s schedule did not permit his attendance at the ground-breaking.
Kathy Schneider of Bismarck represented U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad who had another commitment in the state. She said he is very concerned that federal stimulus dollars not be squandered and is especially pleased to see a project funded that will bring high quality water to south central North Dakota.
“Senator Conrad feels this is a good use of taxpayer dollars and has long-term benefits for people,” Schneider said.
USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider pointed out that investments in infrastructure, such as the rural water project, will create jobs during the construction phase as well as afterward and will improve the qualify of life in the area for generations to come.
Schneider said, with the funding for South Central, North Dakota has surpassed the $400 million lending milestone in the Water and Environment Program (WEP) since its inception in 1963.
The project
In 2001, Neibauer, LaFave and other representatives of the predecessor of South Central, the Burleigh County Water Users, met with people in Emmons County to determine the level of interest in having BCWU expand into the area.
Thanks to federal stimulus dollars and other federal grants and loans, water will be flowing through the new system by early 2012.
Phase I and II of the project includes the construction of the water treatment plant facility west of Linton and the digging and placement of the pipeline that will bring water to Linton, Strasburg, Hague and many farms. Phase III, which is estimated at $8 million, is scheduled for 2011-12 and will bring water to the remained of Emmons County.
Phase IV, which will cost about $11 million, is scheduled for completion in 2014-15 and will bring water east to the Ashley and Wishek area and then to the Napoleon area. South Central also plans to provide service in Kidder County that will bring purified well water to that area.
When the project is completed, it will serve 10,000 people in the three counties. Emmons, Logan and McIntosh Counties are the last three counties in the state to have access to water from a regional water treatment facility.
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to become more stringent on the guidelines for drinking water, cities will be able to meet and exceed the standards set by EPA.
“Many rural resident have already signed on to the project, and having access to a water source other than a farm well is going to fulfill a much needed water supply,” Neibauer said. “There are areas in this tri-county area that are actually short of a water supply. Our rural customers see a benefit having quality for their livestock as well.”
South Central is expected to employ five to seven people at the Emmons County Water Treatment Plant and distribution system when the project is fully operational.

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