It’s May -- time for ND flooding worries to abate. Oops, maybe not. Montana has unmelted snow which was about 140 percent of normal in mid-May. The National Weather Service says the runoff will be “sensational” and will enter ND via the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers eventually raising Lake Sakakawea.
The Souris River arises in Canada, flows south through Minot before making a sharp U-turn near Velva and heading back to Canada. In mid-May the NWS said, “Minot and other Souris River locations should remain prepared for one of the lengthiest high water events in history.”
Wells is a mid-sized county in central ND -- the county has 200 roads which are damaged or under water. For residents of Hurdsfield, a 40-mile trip to Carrington now includes a 50-mile detour through Harvey. Wells is one of 39 ND counties and three Indian reservations which have been declared a federal disaster area and will be eligible for financial assistance to repair infrastructure.
A Forum editorial said the pleas of Devils Lake residents for relief from flooding have been met only with “polite nods and words of understanding” from federal officials. Sen. Kent Conrad cried foul, “The fact is more than $900 million in federal resources have been brought to the Devils lake area.” And the senator said more was on the way. Devils Lake residents planned a massive rally to build support for opening the Tolna Coulee, the natural outlet to the Sheyenne River. They claim the cost would be “peanuts.”
Call it what you want. U.S. Senate legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Conrad (and other Corn Belt senators) is billed as a plan to end ethanol production subsidies in five years. Opponents see it differently -- as a ruse to extend expiring subsidies for five years.
President Obama and Congressional Democrats want to eliminate tax breaks for the oil industry. One such provision allows oil companies to immediately deduct 70 percent of the cost of drilling new oil wells. New wells in ND cost millions of dollars each and the deduction is critical, particularly, for smaller oil development companies. Ron Ness, president of the ND Petroleum Council, said the loss of tax breaks would harm production, “This is a huge issue for the Bakken.” Sen. Conrad leans against incentives; Sen. Hoeven leans the other way.
“It’s reached a critical point for NDSU,” said President Dean Bresciani. “We have nothing left to cut.” Bresciani wanted a waiver from the Board of Higher Ed for a 9 percent tuition increase. Bresciani said “It’s actually a fairly modest increase.” The Minot Daily News said “that depends on who you ask.” Likening NDSU to a spoiled child, MDN urged the board to reject the increase. The BOHE approved NDSU’s request. The Bismarck Tribune labeled the action “irresponsible,” while the Fargo Forum welcomed the board’s decision to “defy the governor and Legislature.” The scene is set for a further fight over the role of the BOHE.
The website for the ND Newspaper Association has the following: “NDNA represents its members and the public in legislative affairs -- protecting the public’s right-to-know through open public meetings and open public records.” But try and find out who won awards at the association’s annual meeting in Grand Forks in May. Each newspaper highlights its own awards (if it did well), but is mum about other winners. You will be glad to know all the newspapers encourage open records and good sportsmanship.
TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS
Herald columnist Ralph Kingsbury says Grand Forks has economic equilibrium -- not too hot, and not too cold, but is more dependent than ever on energy and aviation initiatives at UND. Bismarck, says Kingsbury, is the chosen one. Though not in oil country, Bismarck benefits greatly from both energy spending and the accompanying expansion in state government.
One of the reasons the GF area population has flattened is increased use of technology in agriculture production and processing. American Crystal, the largest beet sugar producer in the U.S., says each shift in its East GF plant requires only 30 people -- thirty years ago 100 would have been needed. American Crystal is retraining its work force to improve their understanding of production control technologies.
Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District served by Rep. Collin Peterson is a north-south district adjoining ND’s Red River Valley. This has been a convenient arrangement for the two states to cooperate on issues such as flood control and agriculture. A proposed redistricting in Minnesota creates rural districts crossing the state from east to west. Under this proposal, two districts will adjoin ND. The plan faces opposition from Minnesota Democrats and the governor, because they believe it was intended to create a safe Republican district..
AROUND INDIAN COUNTRY: Roger Yankton Sr. became the new chairman of the Spirit Lake Reservation, receiving more votes than his nephew, who is academic dean at the tribal college. United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck has an annual budget of $30 million and about 340 full-time students -- that’s an annual cost of about $88,000 per student. To put it in a harsher light, the two-year college graduates about 110 students annually -- roughly $270,000 per graduate. Don’t worry, it’s only federal money.
In a year of rising federal deficits, the USDA is giving the Standing Rock Reservation $5 million to improve beef production. Like many federal programs, this one has a way of spreading out -- it’s characterized as an experiment which aims to involve high school students and “help get them into college.” Sioux County is entirely on the Standing Rock Reservation and was one of the few ND counties supporting Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
The state has a very complicated formula for allocating oil tax revenues, which are expected to be about $2 billion in the fiscal 2011-13 biennium. The Office of Management and Budget has prepared a multicolored chart to help mortals follow the process. It’s cool -- the chart has dozens of boxes identifying at least ten funds, and arrows pointing in four directions -- unfortunately, only a few people will be able to understand it.
The Herald reported, “The growing number of Somali immigrants moving into Grand Forks has begun to trigger fear and anger among some residents.” The city of GF will show a film about Somali immigrants to facilitate an open discussion of the rising conflict.
"I'm from Siberia, but it's the same." You didn’t hear this from the ND Chamber of Commerce, it was Alexey Borisenko, a Russian engineer working in the Oil Patch. He was commenting on the May blizzard which shut down almost all oil production.