Final informational meeting on the City of Langdon-NRWD water project held

The City of Langdon and Northeast Regional Water District held the final informational meeting regarding the purchase of water and building of a pipeline from Devils Lake to bring water to City of Langdon and rural water customers in the surrounding area.

water graphic

Posted on 6/4/16

By Melissa Anderson

The informational meetings and subsequent need to put the decision to a city wide vote are the result of a decision made by the Langdon City Commission in early February when the commission voted 4-1 to move forward with joining NRWD in the Devils Lake option. The ordinance that residents will be voting on to allow the decision to stand was unanimously approved at a following meeting.

With a large audience present for the last chance at hearing the pro’s and con’s of the options that the city has in regards to a municipal water source. The presentations were very similar to the last informational meeting with the exception being NRWD General Manager Gordon Johnson addressing the questions raised at the previous meeting with more exact explanations in slides.

Langdon City Commission President Chuck Downs presented the options that the city has in regards to water. Downs explained that the city has the option of the fully funded project with NRWD, try to secure funding for the building of a new water treatment plant, or do nothing at this time.

Downs explained that the building of a new, state of the art water treatment plant would be a phased approach in which the city would build a new water treatment plant that would use reverse osmosis to treat Mt. Carmel Dam water and then in the future the city would have to build a pipeline to the Munich aquifer which would then be the new water source for the City of Langdon.

The building of a water treatment plant hinges on the city’s ability to get a federal grant from the USDA Rural Development program. The city is only eligible for 43 percent and the city would not know if that grant would be awarded to them for a couple of years.

The total cost for the building of the water treatment plant alone is $11.6 million. If the city is awarded the 43 percent grant, the project would cost the city $6.6 million dollars. These numbers do not include the additional cost of the next phase of the plan of building a pipeline to well fields located at the Munich Aquifer.

Should the City of Langdon pursue the building of a new water treatment plant, using the numbers that were discussed, the average monthly user rate increase is estimated at $25.

Questions posed to Downs included if the city had already received confirmation of the 43 percent grant, which Downs responded they had not but were in line to be considered and hopefully approved for it.

An citizen pointed out that the federal USDA Rural Development program only has $20 million to disperse and that preference would be given to projects that had a higher impact such as regional projects, making the likely hood of this particular project being approved unlikely.

Another resident asked if once the second phase of building a pipeline to the Munich Aquifer would increase user rates. Current estimates for the second phase of the water treatment plant option are at the $7 million mark but construction costs in the future could shift those numbers. With that amount in mind, the estimated user rate increase per month is nearly $40.

Johnson then gave the presentation on the fully funded project of transporting water from the Devils Lake Water Treatment Plant to the City of Langdon and surrounding area.

Johnson went over the information that was given at the previous meeting again. Johnson stated that the total cost for the project was $22.8 million which includes $1.5 million in contingencies.

The North Dakota State Water Commission approved a 75 percent grant for the project which covers $15.5 million, a state loan of almost $1.7 at 1.5 percent interest for a 20 year term leaving the two entities with a total combined loan amount required of $6.49 million.

The City of Langdon would be required to get a loan amounting to just over $3.9 million to cover their share of the project. This project would result in a average user rate increase of $17 per month.

Johnson closed his presentation by stating “We want to look at this as a partnership. We want to work together to get it done.”

Johnson answered several questions from the audience with the first one being NRWD’s course of action if the project is voted down. Johnson explained that NRWD would move forward with the project, reducing cost by decreasing the size of the pipeline. This would eliminate any chance of Langdon being able to join later should the residents reconsider and want to join.

The question was asked if the funding like this would ever be available again in the future. Johnson stated that was not likely as the State Water Commission’s budget was tightly tied to the oil revenue which is not likely to ever return to the level it was at. This makes the funds, and project, a golden opportunity that should be acted upon.

The question was asked what the cost is likely to be in the future due to the ageing population and the imminent decline in population to support the costs. Johnson stated that this is the very reason that the State Water commission pushes regional projects so hard. He elaborated by stating that he did not know when the decline in population would  trigger a rate increase.

Johnson addressed a question regarding the interest that the City of Cando had expressed in the project. If Cando were to join it would result in an additional 1,300 to 1,500 users which would help bring costs down.

Langdon City Commissioner Marty Tetrault spoke and stated that from the perspective of a city commissioner it is hard to see the loss of a municipal water treatment plant but that this same issue occurred a few years ago with the municipal sanitation service of garbage.

“The purpose of this was to find the best water possible and in working with NRWD and looking at a lot of different options I truly believe that the Devils Lake option is the best,” Tetrault stated.

Tetrault continued stating that the he believes the vote should go to the Devils Lake  option because the funding is there and it is supported by the state.

“They [ND State Water Commission] are pushing for regionalization,” Tetrault stated,” If we do this project the state water commission will say we did a really great project.”

Another question posed asked how vast of an area this project, if completed, would serve. Johnson stated that by joining with Devils Lake, almost the entire northeastern part of the state would be getting water from this source making the decision a highly impactful one.

A resident who had previously been serviced with water from NRWD addressed a concern posed about water quality. The resident stated that they never had issues with water quality and were always notified well in advance of any rate increases and given reason for the rate increase.

“If the people of Langdon don’t go with this system, their just crazy,” the resident stated.