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City gets $12.3 million for infrastructure

Posted 8/03/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Watford City will be able to expand its city water and sewer services to serve an ever-growing community thanks to a $12.3 million grant from the Board of University and School Lands (Land Board).
Last Thursday, the Land Board awarded $53.5 million in grants, including a grant of $12,301,651.42 to Watford City, to help communities impacted by oil and gas development pay for needed infrastructure projects.
“With the grant, the city will be able to allow the expansion of its water and sewer system east to Power Fuels, south past the substation, as well as to the northwest,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor. “These are all core infrastructure improvements that will help developers tie into our city services.”
While the city did not receive their total infrastructure request of $18,101,000, Sanford believes that the $12.3 million grant will go a long way to meeting the city’s infrastructure needs.
“We’re going to have to trim what we wanted because we didn’t get all of our request,” stated Sanford. “Hopefully, this gets us to where our head is above the water as far as meeting our current demand.”
According to Sanford, because the city had already completed pre-engineering work on the projects that were funded, the city will be moving forward to complete the projects quickly.
“The city will bid on these projects as fast as we can,” states Sanford. “We are looking for work to begin yet this fall.”
Of the $53.5 million in grants awarded by the Land Board, North Dakota’s three largest cities in oil country - Dickinson, Williston and Minot - were granted $21 million to fund infrastructure projects that will support their growing populations.
The Land Board approved $12 million in impact grants for Williston, $5 million for Dickinson and $4 million for Minot.
Smaller cities in oil country shared in $32.5 million to address infrastructure needs as a result of oil and gas development.
Other smaller cities receiving grants were $7.7 million for Tioga, $4.1 million for Stanley, $2.4 million for Parshall, $2 million for Killdeer, $1 million for Plaza, and $800,000 each for  New Town and Crosby. The  remaining $1 million was divided between 12 other communities receiving from $50,000 to $200,000 for either planning or street paving assistance, with Arnegard receiving a $100,000 grant for sewer improvements.
“The Land Board was very satisfied that the advisory committee which represents the various political subdivisions has done an excellent job of prioritizing the greatest needs in oil country infrastructure,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said.
The $53.5 million in grant funds will help growing communities in oil country address housing infrastructure needs, including street construction and improvement projects, municipal water lines and sewer lines. The grants are funded with state taxes paid on oil and gas production.
According to Energy Impact Office Director Lance Gaebe, the grants were selected based on improving infrastructure, financial need, project readiness, contribution to community health and safety, and if the need is the result of oil and gas activity.
“The grants will primarily fund city projects intended to encourage housing construction in support of population expansion” Gaebe said.
The Land Board is comprised of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead and State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt.
During the 2011-2013 biennium the Oil and Gas Impact Fund will accumulate $100 million that will be disbursed to oil and gas development impacted political subdivisions. The Land Board will award grants through the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office to eligible political subdivisions at least four times each year. The legislation allows for up to 60 percent of the appropriation to be awarded in the first year of the biennium  with $21 million for the three hub cities and $39 million for remaining eligible political subdivisions.
The Land Board established an Energy Impact Advisory Committee made up of county, city, township and emergency response officials from the oil and gas producing areas to offer recommendations on the grant awards. The advisory committees recommended that the initial grant round be heavily focused on supporting infrastructure projects in the oil and gas impacted cities.