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One good choice for Fargo water

As leaders in Fargo, we have spent almost 20 years working to find the best solution for this city's long-term water supply needs. A severe drought like the one Fargo experienced in the 1930s could lead to a critical water shortage in our community.

As leaders in Fargo, we have spent almost 20 years working to find the best solution for this city's long-term water supply needs. A severe drought like the one Fargo experienced in the 1930s could lead to a critical water shortage in our community. Now that we've identified the best way to set up an emergency water supply, an alternative that we ruled out previously is being raised again. We appreciate this opportunity to explain why we believe strongly that there is one clear choice - and why now is the time to move forward.

Extensive research shows the best way to deliver treated water to Fargo is through a pipeline connected to Lake Ashtabula via the existing canal system in central North Dakota. We reached this conclusion after years of study conducted in cooperation with more than 25 partners, including state agencies in North Dakota and Minnesota, rural water systems from South Dakota to the Canadian border, and federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Lake Ashtabula option:

- Is the most efficient.

- Is the most environmentally friendly.

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- Is the most cost-effective.

- Provides the option of using Lake Ashtabula as a water storage area during extended drought periods.

- Is the most reliable.

Lately, some well-meaning North Dakotans have suggested a pipeline from Bismarck to Fargo's water plant is a better solution. This is an idea we examined in detail previously. We discovered this suggestion has some major downfalls:

E It provides no water storage area, so if there is any break in the pipeline along its route, the city would be left without an emergency water supply.

E The cost of the Bismarck-to-Fargo option is 60 percent more than the Lake Ashtabula route.

E Fargo's water plant would need a major expansion to accommodate this plan, without any available funding from the state or federal governments to pay for this expansion.

The higher expenses associated with the Bismarck-to-Fargo option represent an overwhelming financial burden for all water systems in the Red River Valley.

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We examined numerous options for delivering water to the valley, but only one proved to be affordable, reliable and in line with environmental standards: the Lake Ashtabula route. Experts have completed their environmental impact study of this option, and now we await congressional authorization and government funding to proceed with this project. Meanwhile, the threat of drought in the Red River Valley looms each year.

This is not a time to look back and resurrect options already examined and ruled out. It is a time to move forward, and we hope that our preferred alternative can be constructed before a critical water shortage affects our area.

Walaker is mayor of Fargo. Lindgren and Furness are former mayors.

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