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Federal judge's ruling clears the way for Central North Dakota Water Supply Project
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Federal judge's ruling clears the way for Central North Dakota Water Supply Project

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A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by the state of Missouri seeking to stop a project that would supply Missouri River water to parts of central North Dakota.

The Wednesday ruling will enable the federal Bureau of Reclamation to move ahead with a water service contract for the Central North Dakota Water Supply Project. The project will receive water from the McClusky Canal for systems in Burleigh, Sheridan, Wells, Foster, Kidder, McLean and Stutsman counties.

The Missouri suit alleged violations of federal policy, including failure by project developers to properly study the project's environmental impacts and its alternatives. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled against Missouri on all counts.

The state of Missouri “doesn’t like any depletion from the Missouri River,” said Merri Mooridian, deputy manager of the Red River Valley Water Supply Program, which will move Missouri River water by underground pipeline from Washburn east to supply systems in the east and central parts of the state. The Central North Dakota Water Supply Project will use the same pipeline, taking up to 20 cubic feet of water per second -- nearly 13 million gallons a day -- from the line’s 165 cfs capacity.

“The state of North Dakota has the right to flows of the Missouri River in the state of North Dakota,” Mooridian said. “The state of Missouri doesn’t have the right to all of the Missouri River.”

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the court’s decision “helps reduce legal uncertainty for the Central North Dakota Water Supply Project and will enable our state to make good use of water from the McClusky Canal.” 

The start time and cost of the project will become more clear after coordination efforts with the water systems involved, said Kimberly Cook, Garrison Diversion Conservancy District spokeswoman.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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