February 17th, 2015 Senate To Vote On WAWS Reforms Over the past few years, I have written about the WAWS Project and how it has, like many governme

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February 17th, 2015


Senate To Vote On WAWS Reforms


Over the past few years, I have written about the WAWS Project and how it has, like many government subsidized projects, has become a bully and operates with essentially no oversight.

(For a background on WAWS click here.)

Two reforms will be voted on by the State Senate this week:

Senate Bill 2336 creates and requires WAWS to use a notification process to simply let private sector industrial water sellers know when and where WAWS intends to compete with the private sector. It gives private water sellers 7-days to review and respond, and requires the state water commission to make a ruling based on the input from private water sellers and WAWS’ basis for the project.

This is a very watered down (pun intended) version compared to what was originally introduce.

The Senate Industry Business and Labor Committee amended the bill to be less restrictive on WAWS’ ability to meet their debt payment schedule with the Bank of North Dakota.

While it does not really give private water sellers a huge victory, at least now the private sector will know where the government is taking business away from the private sector.

Senate Bill 2361 was originally designed to restrict WAWS to using eminent domain only to provide water to residents (on farms and in towns) for domestic every-day use such as drinking and cleaning. It would have prevented WAWS from using eminent domain for the purposes of providing fracking water to the oil companies.

SB 2361 was also amended way down to the point where WAWS cannot use eminent domain “solely” for industrial purposes. This leaves a gapping hole that allows WAWS to use eminent domain 99% for the benefit of oil companies –as long as a few people get some water.

As amended, SB 2361 would do little to stop WAWS from abusing its eminent domain by threatening landowners. Considering North Dakota has one of the strictest protections on eminent domain, allowing WAWS to slap landowners with threats to use the power is just kind of sad.

(Note: these amendments by the committee were made in their attempt to get something that could pass the Senate at large. They were not made with any ill intent against the private sector businesses that brought the legislation forward. The Senate IBL committee tried its best to facilitate something that both sides could live with.)

These reforms are nowhere near what is needed to rein WAWS in – they represent a small step – but even though they are not huge reforms, WAWS and its member organizations are throwing all their lobbying power against them.

See, not only do private sector businesses have to compete with WAWS, and pay tax money into the state general fund via income and sales tax, but they also have to compete with lobbyists from WAWS, the members of WAWS, and the engineering firm that has made upwards of $25 million from the WAWS project.

WAWS gets to take taxpayer dollars and lobby against taxpayers who don't like that their tax dollars are being used to compete with them and their businesses. All in the name of providing big oil companies with cheap, taxpayer subsidized water.

A pretty sweet deal for WAWS and their contractors!

In the long run, when there are fewer private water sellers in business it won't be such a good deal for the oil companies.

Not so good for the private sector businesses that have to compete with WAWS while paying into the state coffers.

Hopefully, the Senate will see the need for their basic and minimal reforms and not give in to the taypayer funded lobbyists roaming the halls of the capital fighting against the private sector.

Click here to urge your legislators to create oversight and transparency with regard to WAWS.


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network


(Disclaimer: since beginning my research and publishing on WAWS, I have personally taken on a consulting and lobbying role with the Independent Water Providers who represent the part of the private sector most affected by WAWS’s unfair competitive advantage. I have push their goals to be in the direction of "good government" and helped them develop reforms to that end.)

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