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To avoid a time-consuming federal permit process, a proposed state-funded pipeline from the Missouri River to eastern North Dakota to provide water will be utilizing a series of horizontal collector wells.

Discussion Monday among members of the interim Water Topics Overview Committee in the Roughrider Room of the state Capitol centered on the proposed Red River Valley Water Supply Project. An estimated cost for the project has previously been put at between $800 million and $1.1 billion.

“Our project is very large, very complex. This is a huge project,” said Ken Vein, chairman of the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District Board of Directors.

A study was recently completed that concluded by drilling a series of horizontal collector wells near the Missouri River above the high water mark would allow the state to bypass the federal permitting process, according to Vein.

The wells would be located near Washburn.

“Nine to 14 horizontal collector wells would be required,” said Vein, adding that the number of wells depends on how much water demand there is.

From there, a 66-inch to 84-inch pipeline would travel east, discharging the groundwater into Baldhill Creek above Baldhill Dam into Lake Ashtabula. From there, it would make its way down the Sheyenne River to communities in the Red River Valley.

Vein said the plan is to have the final design completed and the route decided by the end of June 2017, with phased construction occurring from 2018 to 2024.

The estimated cost for the preliminary design of the project is $16 million. The state provided more than $12.3 million for the 2015-17 biennium for planning; Vein said the planning will be scaled back or the remaining cost will be filled locally.

Vein said the current cost-share for planning with the State Water Commission was 90 percent by the state and the rest locally.

Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, questioned the 90-10 split.

“That’s not reasonable for the whole project,” Streyle said. “I don’t see how the state could pick up the tab at 90 percent.”

Garrison Diversion Conservancy District manager Duane DeKrey said the group has anticipated the cost-share would be negotiated during the next legislative session.

A pipeline was said to be the best way to address the growing water needs in the Red River Valley, according to an environmental impact statement released in 2007 by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. That was after approximately eight years of study. The project has been under consideration for more than a decade.

A final decision from the federal Interior Department on the project was never issued. In fall 2012, state officials began to move toward an alternative pipeline route without federal funding.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at