BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum has signed House Bill 1385, allowing the State Water Commission (SWC) to enter into agreements with federally recognized tribal nations.

This move makes the nations eligible sponsors under the North Dakota Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Cost-Share Program.

The Cost-Share Program provides state funding for water development projects, including water supplies, flood protection and other general water management efforts.

Before the unanimous passage of HB 1385, North Dakota Century Code only allowed the State Water Commission to enter into cost-share agreements with North Dakota political subdivisions, the federal government, other state political subdivisions and Canadian provinces. Tribal nations were not identified as an eligible partner for funding assistance.

“Providing tribal nations with the opportunity to work directly with the SWC on cost-share requests will better meet the needs of both tribal and non-tribal residents and ensure that all North Dakota citizens and communities have similar access to state resources that support local investments in critical water infrastructure,” Burgum, who chairs the SWC, said after signing the bill Thursday. “We’re grateful to the Legislature, our Department of Water Resources team and tribal leaders for their collaboration on this breakthrough legislation.”

In recent years, the SWC and DWR have seen cost-share requests submitted by Rolette County – which is a statutorily eligible partner – working cooperatively with the Turtle Mountain Public Utilities Commission (TMPUC). Through a memorandum of understanding, these two entities have been able to provide improved water quality and quantity supplies to both tribal and non-tribal North Dakota residents living within the boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Reservation. With the passage of HB 1385, federally recognized tribal nations, agencies or departments thereof, such as the TMPUC, may cooperate directly with the SWC and DWR.

“The need for critical water infrastructure exists within the boundaries of North Dakota reservations, just as that same need exists outside of tribal boundaries,” DWR director Andrea Travnicek said. “This is an incredibly important step toward providing more of North Dakota’s citizens with quality water supplies and improved resiliency to the negative effects of both flooding and drought.”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jon Nelson and co-sponsored by Reps. Jayme Davis, Clayton Fegley, Lisa Finley-DeVille and Dennis Johnson and Sens. Michael Dwyer, Jordan Kannianen, Donald Schaible and Ronald Sorvaag.

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