This year the title was Water, Roads and Agriculture Working Together and it was held in Grand Forks. Much of the full day was spent educating Water Resource District (WRD) managers about what happened in this previous legislative session. Senator Mark Weber was the lone legislator in attendance as the water related bills were discussed along with the bonding and infrastructure bills. The Water World is pretty happy given that the bonding bill found big money for the Fargo Diversion and Minot flood protection. As explained in earlier blogs (now a couple of months ago) that leaves much more in the budget of the State Water Commission for other projects.
There were presentations explaining the subsurface drainage or tiling bill, subsurface drainage itself as well as promoting the idea that WRDs are much better off if they can follow the same procedures for permitting tiling in a uniform manner. Some of the complaints in the past few sessions have come about because some unevenness in the way WRDs conduct business. Therefore, a couple of sessions ago there was a requirement for WRD board members to become educated and a continuing education system was initiated. These meetings are part of that educational process and, while it was competing with a Water Users annual meeting in Medora, it was still fairly well attended.
There was also a segment on Wetland Banks, another from an experienced attorney entitled “Being a Good Neighbor; managing water for the long term.” His main advice after explaining North Dakota and Minnesota case law which led to where we are today was fairly simple and made sense – “try to get a private drainage agreement (with neighbors) in writing to avoid hiring attorneys.” He also explained that what is considered to be “reasonable” behavior is what most cases are judged on.
There were other convention tracks operating simultaneously concerning Garrison Diversion matters, but I could not take them both in and settled for eating supper with their executive director who said that those meetings went well. They are dealing with getting the Red River Water Supply Project going as well as a large area of severe slumping along the Canal. They call it the Major Slide project and it is taking a lot of their resources. Overall, I can report that almost all presenters gave credit to Ag groups for their help during the legislative session regarding water issues, so you folks that are members of the NDSGA had an impact. Finally, the much-anticipated interim committee called Water Drainage will be meeting next week in Bismarck. Two members of the committee were in attendance – Jeff Frith (Co. Commissioner from Ramsey) and Clif Issendorf who is a producer and WRD board member from the Bottineau area. I will be there to listen and report.