Feds, province need to intervene with U.S. water projects: NDP critic

Posted: Aug 17 2017
By , Winnipeg Sun

Manitoba’s environment critic is pushing the provincial and federal governments to intervene with U.S. water projects he fears would send pollution flowing north.

NDP critic Rob Altemeyer says our leaders must confirm Manitoba’s water won’t be harmed by two potential projects that would send some American water over the border. Both projects had earlier versions Canadians opposed in the past.

“If North Dakota is proposing something and they can prove, beyond a doubt, that our waterways aren’t going to be impacted, then let’s hear that argument,” said Altemeyer. “Anything that could potentially damage our waterways, needs to be opposed by the provincial and federal governments.”

The Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) project, estimated to cost about $325 million, would carry water from the Missouri River to the north-central region of North Dakota, which would eventually enter the Assiniboine River system. The Red River Valley Water Supply Project would send water from the Missouri River to Eastern North Dakota at times of drought, flowing into the Sheyenne River and, ultimately, the Red River.

The Red River project isn’t a done deal, still awaits multiple approvals and hasn’t been fully priced out. It is expected, however, to cost somewhere around $1 billion. The State of North Dakota recently committed up to $30 million, pending approvals, to fund one stage of the work.

Altemeyer said mixing water from two separate basins, which both projects would do, threatens to send invasive species, algae-producing nutrients and other pollutants into Manitoba.

But NAWS project manager said he’s “extremely confident” Manitoba’s water quality concerns will be addressed through treatment.

“The water will be treated beyond drinking water standards prior to crossing the divide,” said Tim Freije of North Dakota’s State Water Commission.

Officials with the Red River project also plan to treat water before it reaches Canada but have yet to decide on the extent of that treatment.

Feije said the NAWS project is key to ensuring a reliable drinking water supply for many Americans.

“In that part of the state, there’s insufficient water supply ... in terms of quantity and quality,” he said.

But Altemeyer said water flowing north from Devils Lake has already polluted the Red River, underlining the risk foreign waters pose. For example, an International Red River Board report links water from Devils Lake to excessive dissolved solids at the Canada-U.S.A. border most of the time in 2013/14.

Government of Canada officials couldn’t be reached for comment by deadline Wednesday but promised to reply on Thursday.

An interview request for Manitoba Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox was denied. Her office instead re-issued a previous statement expressing a concern with the risk of invasive species and aquatic diseases entering Manitoba waters.

Last week, a U.S. district judge cleared the way to complete the NAWS project, rejecting Manitoba’s legal claim that it threatened to allow harmful bacteria into our water. The province says it is still deciding whether or not to appeal that ruling.

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