East Meets West

Recent visits with our western North Dakota neighbors have been very helpful for better understanding that we share many common goals and opportunities to grow North Dakota in a more sustainable manner.

Thanks to the Williston Herald for publishing my letter of thanks for their hospitality and for coming to Fargo to share their perspectives with area leaders.  Here’s the letter online.

Thanks to Williston Mayor Koeser, former Parshall auditor Loren Hoffman, and many other western North Dakota area leaders for coming to Fargo to address some of our city and state leaders this week. We have a video of their presentation that we are sharing with public cable access channels across the state so more North Dakotans can see it. Their important presentation shares some working examples of projects and plans for ways more North Dakotans can benefit greatly though improved water access and distribution.

Loren Hoffman tells the story of Parshall, a once struggling town rejuvenated by a pivotal water distribution project. It’s a working example of the importance and wide ranging benefits of water for economic development through cooperation and good planning between Parshall, the Three Affiliated Tribes, rural neighbors, businesses, state and federal entities.

We invited western area leaders to Fargo when fellow Fargo Commissioner Brad Wimmer and I recently drove out west and met up with the GF mayor Brown, council members Kreun and Grandstrand as well as a GF county commissioner Malm for a visit to Stanley, Tioga, and Williston elected officials and area leaders. These communities were all such great hosts for our recent tour and visit and we found many things we can work on together to advance our communities and North Dakota. Thanks to Grand Forks and especially Pete Haga for coordinating our visit and letting us tag along.

Here are a few of the primary common goals and challenges to achieve quality growth in North Dakota that we have discussed on our recent visits:

Managing and enhancing access to quality water. We need to combine our efforts to access more water rights for North Dakota from the Missouri River water. 95 percent of North Dakota’s fresh water is held above the Garrison Dam in the Missouri River. It’s estimated the needs for the energy industry in the state as well as for the eastern part of the state would be equivalent to two inches off the top. We must work together for more state support for roads and other infrastructure in the oil industry areas as well as our need for comprehensive water management in the Red River Basin.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil with more clean home grown and home owned energy and improving energy efficiency. We must work to redirect the $1 billion a day now spent abroad to buy and import oil and instead invest that $1 billion in United States energy development strategies and projects. 60 percent of our current daily oil consumption is foreign oil being imported. United States energy independence can be achieved by diversifying our country’s energy production with more clean, home grown, home owned sources that includes merging more renewable energy with our country’s fossil fuels. Sustainable energy independence is good for all Americans, it extends our non-renewable resources, reduces our oil imports, improves national security as well as our economy.

We need to share information and resources to work more closely to improve our land use strategies with continued focus on providing quality infrastructure and quality land development to grow in a more attractive, efficient, safe, and sustainable manner.

A recurring theme appears to be: Water is a key to sustainable growth in North Dakota. Water is a precious resource �“ we can’t live without it, and we need to manage it as best we can. Water should not be looked upon as a nuisance. We need to work together for our common goals with comprehensive strategies to conserve and manage water. Comprehensive water management will include many various water management aspects: water conservation, access, distribution, retention, detention, mitigation, and diversion.

Much good work is being done by many around the state. In the Red River Valley, it’s going to take many years and great cooperation to concurrently improve and develop more comprehensive basinwide water management in the east that includes; Devils Lake stabilization, basinwide retention to conserve water and recharge aquifers in droughts while helping protect in flood years, as well as mitigation and a Fargo-Moorhead diversion.

Working together to develop and share our resources in a clean, sustainable manner, is good for all North Dakotans, our region, and for our country.

Mike Williams