MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota and Canadian officials are working to settle differences over a long-delayed project that would bring Missouri River water to residents in the northwestern part of North Dakota.

Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer last August ruled that the $244 million Northwest Area Water Supply project first authorized by Congress 31 years ago complies with federal environmental law, the Minot Daily News reported. But the Canadian province of Manitoba and the state of Missouri appealed over concerns about water quality and water depletion.

Minot Public Works Director Dan Jonasson last week told the city-county-school-parks liaison committee that Manitoba might be willing to drop the appeal in exchange for being involved in the NAWS design.

“We wouldn’t be opposed to them being involved in the design process, but they will be, by no means, involved in the final say,” Jonasson said.

Tim Freije, who is North Dakota’s NAWS director, said the appeal was put on hold Jan. 31, which gave Manitoba and the appellees, North Dakota and the U.S. Department of the Interior, 90 days to negotiate a settlement. He said the negotiation depends on Manitoba’s desire to have a greater role in NAWS and getting both sides to agree on what that role should be.

“We are very close. It’s a matter of finalizing the details,” Freije said.

Freije said Missouri’s appeal is tied to Manitoba’s, and that he doesn’t think Missouri has a strong case on its own. However, if Missouri continues to move ahead with its lawsuit, briefs are due in federal court by May 14.


Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com