April 27, 2011

State okays $100 million for oil country improvements

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

The oil field has brought added revenue to North Dakota, but with the additional revenue comes added expenses, especially for infrastructure. Many cities like Watford City are in dire need of more sewer and water infrastructure for housing. And those infrastructure improvements come with a big price tag. But thanks to House Bill 1013, many oil producing counties now have a way to pay for the much needed improvements.
On April 19, Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law HB 1013, providing $100 million to help communities in North Dakota’s oil and gas counties offset direct impacts created by the rapidly developing energy industry.
“In the past, this fund had $8 million in it per biennium,” says Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor. “We expect that Watford City alone will be applying for between $6 and $8 million for infrastructure improvements. Without the new bill, there is no way we would be able to get that much. Now, depending on the guidelines, we shouldn’t have any problem.”
The funding package calls for providing $35 million to the cities of Williston, Minot and Dickinson and $65 million to counties, townships, school districts and smaller cities. Grants will be awarded according to the greatest demonstrated impact from oil and gas development.
“I expect Watford City to be one of the first cities to apply for funding because we already have projects underway, and also have many shovel-ready projects that are just waiting for funding,” adds Sanford. “This new fund is going to be a great vehicle for small towns like Watford City that are being expected to double in size in one or two years, something larger cities take 10 to 15 years to do.”
The $100 million in grants is part of a larger funding package promoted by Dalrymple to address the impacts of oil development. On Monday, April 18, Dalrymple signed into law the state Department of Transportation’s 2011-13 budget which includes unprecedented investments to improve roadways in the 17 oil and gas counties and all other areas of the state.
“The growth that is happening here in western North Dakota is unheard of,” says Sanford. “Without the oil impact money, we simply wouldn’t be able to make things happen with housing or roads, so these funding packages bring a great relief.”
The DOT budget includes about $1 billion to rebuild and repair state highways, as well as city, county and township roads throughout the state.