September 25, 2014

Parshall, Tribe try to resolve water issues

By Jerry W. Kram

Long simmering water issues boiled over at a meeting Tuesday organized by State Representative Kenton Onstad between the city of Parshall and representatives of the Three Affiliated Tribes Rural Water System.

The two parties have a signed agreement dating from 2010 that shares responsibility for the water plant that supplies Parshall and the rural water system in the surrounding region. The city owns and operates the water plant while the rural water system is responsible for the transmission pipelines. The two groups have been working on the project since the early 2000s. New issues related to the demand for industrial as well as residential water supplies have arisen in the last two years.

One of the major bones of contention is a provision of federal law known as 1926(b) that prohibits municipal and other water suppliers from expanding into areas served by rural water associations. The law is intended to make the rural water systems more financially stable by keeping other water systems from stealing their customers. Parshall has annexed an area north to North Dakota Highway 23 and would like to extend its water system to serve those areas. However, Mark Fox, who heads the program that oversees the rural water system says that area is in the rural water system’s territory. Tami Norland, an attorney for Parshall, says that is an open question.

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