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A project to treat Lake Sakakawea water and deliver it to 81,000 consumers in the Minot region took a step forward Friday, when the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals said North Dakota can move forward in designing the plant.

Construction of the Northwest Area Water Supply project has been held up on objections from Manitoba because the treated Lake Sakakawea water would reach the Canadian province's watershed. The state of Missouri also is an opposing litigant.

The underlying case remains unresolved, according to Attorney General Wayne Stenejhem, who said being allowed to begin design after a 20-year effort is progress.

"The court recognized that this design work is an important and lengthy process that will do nothing to harm Manitoba or Missouri," Stenehjem said. "In addition, during the budgeting cycle, this is an important message to our Legislature that the NAWS project is continuing to move in a positive direction. It's expected the treatment plant will take 20 months to design with another two years for construction."

The case is scheduled for oral argument March 30.

(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.)

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