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Posted 12/15/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman

Farmer Editor

For the past two years, county commissioners, city leaders and school administrators in western North Dakota have been lobbying our state’s elected leaders to provide serious state financial assistance to help meet the impacts that have been created by the huge influx of oil development.
And apparently, the legwork that was done by these western North Dakota counties, cities and schools was heard as Governor Jack Dalrymple included funding in his proposed 2011-2013 biennium budget that will bring $958 million of infrastructure improvements to the state’s oil and gas producing areas.
To say that the state, county and township roads in western North Dakota have been taking a beating because of increased traffic and the size and weight of these oilfield vehicles would be an understatement. But not only have the roads been impacted. So has just about every other city infrastructure as the impacted cities in the oil patch have been struggling to meet the housing needs, as well as the associated demand for new water, sewer and streets, of the hundreds of new workers who are relocating for oilfield jobs. Quite literally, the cities, counties and schools in the oil patch have been tapped out financially when it comes to meeting these increased demands.
Having the Governor recognize the importance of providing state financial assistance to the oil patch region will go a long way in keeping this region of the state booming, with the state coffers ultimately bringing in more new tax dollars.
As part of his budget message, Gov. Dalrymple stated “this region of North Dakota is doing their share to build North Dakota’s economy, and we need to do our share to help them with their challenges of growth.” And then he followed up by outlining the specific help that has been included in his budget for the oil patch of western North Dakota, including:
• $229 million from the Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund for state road construction and maintenance in North Dakota’s 17 oil and gas producing counties.
• $142 million from the Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund for county and township roads in oil country.
• $100 million in Oil and Gas Impact Grant Funds to be available for cities, counties, townships and other entities in the oil- and gas-producing region for housing infrastructure and other needs.
• $240 million in regular state and federal highway funding for projects in the North Dakota Department of Transportation districts of Williston, Minot and Dickinson.
• $235 million, made available primarily through the Resources Trust Fund, for essential water projects throughout the state, plus another $149 million in carryover funds for existing water supply projects throughout North Dakota, including new funding for the Williston water supply project, which will provide water to the McKenzie County Rural Water System.
While the North Dakota Legislature has yet to act on the Governor’s budget, it does appear that legislators from across North Dakota are finally recognizing the tremendous financial impact that the oil and gas industry is having on the state’s economic prosperity and that now is the time that the state reinvest a portion of those revenues back into western North Dakota.