- Associated Press - Monday, December 11, 2017

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Minot’s resident “water expert,” Maurice Foley, has served more than two decades on water-related boards that have dealt with everything from major infrastructure construction projects to floods.

“Helping people - that’s all I have ever really done,” Foley said. “It’s just fun to be able to help people.”

Foley has been recognized by the City of Minot, Souris River Joint Board and State of North Dakota for his contributions. Foley said working on water issues is largely a matter of problem solving. When it comes to water rights or drainage, it also can be about managing human relations because, Foley said, there’s some truth to the old adage, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting.”

Foley served from 2006 to 2017 on the State Water Commission, leaving last June when Gov. Doug Burgum chose to refresh the commission with new members, the Minot Daily News reported . During that time, he was instrumental in securing state funding for the Northwest Water Supply project, Minot’s city water tower and trunk water line projects and for design, engineering and property acquisition for the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project.

Although he preferred working behind the scenes, Foley took seriously his role to look out for the interests of the Souris Basin. He offered an amendment to increase the state cost share for flood protection from 60 percent to 75 percent. He said he had the governor worried when he got on his soap box to sway the commission. To head him off, Gov. Jack Dalrymple persuaded him to accept a policy meeting to discuss the matter. As a result of that meeting, the cost share was increased to 65 percent, which is expected to provide an additional $50 million in state dollars for the estimated $1 billion flood project.

If there was ever a motion to be made for Minot, Foley would make it, and he would have his second lined up in advance, said Arne Berg, Devils Lake, a former fellow water commissioner. Berg recalled visiting with Foley in 2011 when the Ward County Water Resource Board, on which Foley served, was meeting twice a day and going out to monitor dikes holding back floodwaters.

“He was intimately involved with watching out for the community,” Berg said. “I just learned a lot from Maurice during that era of the flood.”

Their shared decade on the commission also saw the biennium budget for water projects balloon with the increase in oil tax revenue.

“We lived through some really interesting times,” Berg said. Among the successful projects - and one Foley lists as a highlight of his years on the commission - was drainage of Devils Lake, which had been expanding and swallowing up farmland and entire communities. Berg said Foley’s familiarity with the Devils Lake area, where he had farm interests, was helpful. He also called Foley a knowledgeable voice for northwestern North Dakota during the oil boom, when keeping up with water needs was a challenge.

Berg particularly noted the upbeat and positive attitude Foley brought to the commission, even during times of health-related discomforts that would have sidelined many.

“Just a wonderful guy. I am just glad I got a chance to serve with him,” Berg said.

“It was a tremendous honor to serve the people of the state,” said Foley, who directed his words of praise to the engineering staff and to John Hoeven, Dalrymple and Burgum, who served on the commission as governors during his tenure. He also voiced his pleasure with the selection of Jason Zimmerman of Minot to represent the Souris Basin in his stead on the commission.

Foley traces his interest in water issues to a government program that helped plant trees on his family’s farm near Lakota in the 1930s. A young boy then, he tired of hauling water for the trees so constructed a ditch. When erosion proved problematic, he tiled the ditch with old shingles. In the end, he admits, his efficiency killed the trees with too much water.

Foley went on to serve in the Air Force, later working six years for the N.D. Highway Patrol in southwestern North Dakota. He worked as a district representative for Allis Chalmers, a farm implement company, for 15 years before buying out a Minot implement business in 1977. He operated Foley Equipment until 1993. He then worked as a cell phone salesman until the fall of 1996. He and his wife, Lynn, have five children and seven grandchildren.

Throughout his career, Foley maintained his farming interests near Lakota and kept an interest in water issues. In the mid-1980s, he created a duck pond to offset a drained nuisance slough on his farmland, which was controversial even though a no-net-loss policy for wetlands allowed the replacement. Soon afterward, the North Dakota Legislature eliminated the offset option despite Foley’s testimony in support of keeping it.

An interest in water stayed with him as he faced retirement. Not one to sit around, he was looking for something to immerse himself in. So he applied for an open seat on the Ward County Water Resource Board. He was seated in 1996 and has served since, with the exception of two years. He had been replaced because of a policy that two members must live in flood-risk zones, and his home in Minot was outside the Puppy Dog flood zone by about 30 feet. The policy later changed, and Foley was re-appointed, continuing to serve today. He served as chairman of the board from 2001 to 2007.

In December 1996, Foley was elected to the North Dakota Water Users Association. Going on 21 years on the board, Foley is a past president of the group. He also served on the Souris River Joint Board, Minot and Ward County Flood Recovery Committee and Ward County Stormwater Management Committee.

He has been on the NAWS Advisory Committee since 2006.

When the Environmental Protection Agency directed Kenmare to build a $3 million water treatment plant in 2008, Foley asked the NAWS director at the State Water Commission if a more cost-effective solution would be to extend a new NAWS line being built to Berthold. The idea turned out to be a good one.

“A year later, it was done,” Foley said.

Bob Schempp, a former city manager who appointed Foley to the NAWS committee, called Foley “valuable” to Minot and the region.

“I put him on the advisory committee because of his knowledge and his experience and his familiarity with the people who will make the decisions for NAWS on the state level,” he said. “I was one of the people who recommended his appointment to the (State Water) Commission because he knows all about flood control and NAWS. He’s been so active in the western part of North Dakota and Minot for years.”

His work on behalf of water issues has generated accolades, but one recognition that stands out for Foley was his designation by Dalrymple in December 2013 as a commodore in the North Dakota Mythical Navy.

Maurice exemplifies what it means to be a water statesman,” stated the award. “His experience, advocacy, effectiveness and dedication have furthered the comprehensive water management goals of our state and have greatly benefited the people of North Dakota.”


Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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