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Published May 06 2013

Forum editorial: Bill Guy’s work is not done

In all the grand and appropriate tributes to the late North Dakota Gov. William Guy, his visionary thinking about water development often was cited. Guy, who died last month at age 93, surely was among those few politicians who understood how water – too much of it, not enough of it – affected the state’s people, economy and future.

But what was not emphasized in reports about the governor’s record of public service is that he never stopped thinking in visionary ways about the role of water in the state he loved. He was out of public life for a long time, but he continued to think critically about water management, and even advanced plans and projects he believed could make a positive difference for the state not next year, but 50 or 100 years from now. He may yet prove to be, even in death, ahead of his time.

Until about three years ago, when his health deteriorated, Guy would routinely visit The Forum to talk about the history and future of water policy. He understood that the original broad scope of the Garrison Diversion project had been lost. But he also knew that elements of the project could be modified and updated to address long-term water needs of eastern North Dakota communities – one of the foremost goals of the old sidelined project.

A few years ago, a plan to move water from the Missouri River to eastern North Dakota experienced a revival. The Garrison Conservancy District and Red River Valley cities, including Fargo, endorsed the concept. Preliminary alternatives were prepared. Guy took notice.

He said a pipeline on right-of-way that already was in the public domain was the smartest way to go, even if it might be more expensive than open channels. His idea was respectfully dismissed by water planners and managers. The governor was not deterred, and he continued to advocate for a pipeline/water treatment plant option.

It might be that Guy had it right from the get-go. The pipeline from the Missouri to the valley is getting serious attention by, among others, those who rejected Guy’s ideas just a few years ago. It is possible a newly wealthy North Dakota, in concert with federal authorities, could fund a pipeline that initially would be more expensive than open canals but in the long pull would be more environmentally sound and less expensive to maintain – positives Guy stressed in his proposal.

So it could very well be that Bill Guy, one of the most respected governors of modern times, will extend his legacy long into North Dakota’s future. Because on the pipeline question, he got it right.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.