Missouri, Manitoba water lawsuits combine in same court

Saturday, March 28, 2009 | 5:50 p.m. CDT

BISMARCK, N.D. — The manager of the Northwest Area Water Supply project says a lawsuit filed by the state of Missouri will delay the lifting of a court-ordered injunction on construction of water treatment facilities.

Both the state of Missouri and the Canadian province of Manitoba object to NAWS, which will bring Missouri River water to northwest North Dakota. Michelle Klose with the State Water Commission said the lawsuits are being heard in the same federal court, and the Missouri lawsuit brings up some different issues.

Missouri fears a depletion of the Missouri River. Manitoba is worried about harmful organisms possibly being introduced into its waters.

Combining the two lawsuits will hasten a final decision in the Missouri case but will delay the judge's decision in the Manitoba case about lifting the injunction on construction of treatment facilities, Klose said.

"We were hoping for a decision by the judge by the middle of the year, no later," she said.

Now, she said, she is hoping for a resolution to both lawsuits by the end of the year.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., will review arguments in the Missouri lawsuit as she considers the adequacy of an environmental study completed for NAWS in December to address the Manitoba lawsuit.

The study recommended spending $17.5 million on a treatment facility near Max that would include ultraviolet and chemical disinfection of the NAWS water.

Meanwhile, construction of pipeline continues. The Water Commission recently approved contracts with the city of Kenmare and the Upper Souris Water Users Association of Kenmare.

Work also is under way on a $12.5 million pumping plant at Minot's water treatment plant. It will pump water to the city of Minot and also to communities hooked up to NAWS. The project is expected to be done by the end of the year.

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