News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

September 3, 2010

SELINGER CALLS FOR HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON CROSS-BORDER WATER ISSUES



Premier Greg Selinger today called for high-level formal discussions between the Canadian and American federal governments, the province of Manitoba, and the states of North Dakota and Minnesota in an attempt to resolve long-standing, cross-border water issues including problems caused by Devils Lake flooding. 
 
Earlier this summer, North Dakota more than doubled the amount of water it is pumping from Devils Lake into the Red River system without an adequate filter in place, despite serious Canadian concerns about invasive species and other pollutants, said Selinger. 
 
The premier said he has been involved in numerous discussions involving cross-border water issues and possible solutions since being sworn in, but noted there hasn’t yet been a meeting of all the governments involved. Canadian officials have proposed such a meeting and recently retiring U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota made a similar suggestion, which the premier termed “constructive.”
 
“I have spoken with the prime minister as well as ambassadors Doer and Jacobson and a number of state governors on these issues and it is clear that we have to get all the jurisdictions together at the table soon,” Selinger said.   
 
Timing is critical because the recommendations of a U.S. multi-agency task team set up by the White House to examine options for addressing Devils Lake flooding are scheduled to be released later this month, said Selinger. Political leaders from North Dakota will be in Washington today to talk about the work of the task force, which the premier said hasn’t yet been shared with Canada. “We need to make sure the threats to Manitoba’s water systems are understood and taken into account when the U.S. deals with these recommendations,” he noted. 
 
Without filtration considered adequate by Manitoba, the expanded Devils Lake outlet is currently pumping 250 cubic feet of water per second every hour into the Sheyenne River, which in turn flows into the Red River, then crosses the border and eventually enters Lake Winnipeg. Some North Dakota leaders are advocating additional outlets which would mean even larger transfers of Devils Lake water into Manitoba. 
 
Besides Devils Lake, there are other North Dakota water projects with cross-border implications including the Northwest Area Water Supply project (NAWS) which would involve transferring Missouri River water over the Continental Divide and the proposed Red River Valley Water Supply initiative, similar to the Garrison Diversion plan and also involving the transfer of Missouri River water. 
 
As well, North Dakota has expressed concerns about the effects of the Pembina Road in Manitoba on spring run-off flows. 
 
The Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission were put in place as a mechanism for dealing with Canada-U.S. water disputes, but North Dakota has asserted that the review processes involved are too time consuming.
 
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