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Tuesday, February 14, 2017


THE DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE received an easement this week to drill under the Missouri River and complete its 1,200-mile project. Construction has resumed. ND House lawmakers advanced four bills Monday aimed to give law enforcement more tools for responding to pipeline protests. The bills have been “fast tracked” in anticipation of last-ditch protests about the pipeline. The bills increase penalties for doing economic harm greater than $1,000, riot offenses, wearing a mask during a crime, and trespassing. The measures passed with substantial margins -- opponents consider the measures a “knee jerk” response to the protests.

A WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL describes 250 truckloads of trash left by environmental protesters near Standing Rock -- the detritus is now frozen into massive hunks of junk. The mess must be cleaned up before spring floods send the sludge into the Missouri River. The WSJ called the protests “moral grandstanding.”

LINGERING COSTS OF PROTESTS Law enforcement agencies throughout ND are $30 million short due to amounts owed by the state for overtime costs. Right now, the agencies have only IOUs. There is also lost opportunity cost -- since September 1, the Highway Patrol issued about half the normal tickets because its officers were tied up by the protests.

THE STANDING ROCK TRIBE has disavowed any connection to a group of protesters, including former congressional candidate Chase Iron Eyes, who set up a short-lived camp on private property last week. Iron Eyes was charged Saturday with inciting a riot and trespass. Ironically, protestors have turned against Standing Rock, their former ally. The national campaigns director for Honor the Earth said, “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has fully engaged in the deeply flawed process that has been stripped away to benefit the interests of big oil.”
REVERSE COURSE Just a few years ago, ND’s public universities were jubilant. High oil and crop prices created opportunities that were temporarily the envy of schools in many other states -- an AP article by Dave Kolpak indicates funding for higher education in the state soared from $660 million for fiscal 2011-13 to $910 million in 2013-15. Two years later, the budget has dropped to $610 million -- the university system chancellor called it “probably the biggest shock to the system since the 1930s.”

GOV. DOUG BURGUM says it’s time for a new approach in higher education. There is less money for capital improvements, in part, because more knowledge transfer will take place online outside classrooms. When new classrooms are built they may be off campus where they spur other development, as was done by NDSU in downtown Fargo. Burgum was critical of the location of the new UND med school, which is next to a cemetery and hockey arena.
"ZALESKIi was known for writing editorials that could be blunt in criticizing his subjects, sometimes provoking angry responses." -- From a Forum article announcing that long-time editorial page editor Jack Zaleski was retiring today. "Blunt" is an understatement, Zaleski's goal was to stir controversy by ridiculing his subjects. Opponents were demonized. UND and its Fighting Sioux nickname were favorite targets, while NDSU and its Athletic Department could do no wrong. We will probably not see this level of rancor at the Forum again.

THE NEW SANFORD MEDICAL CENTER in Fargo is the most expensive building in state history. The nearly $500 million project was turned over to the health provider this week and is scheduled to open July 25. The 11-story medical center was completed on schedule and on budget -- unusual for projects of this size.

SECOND PRIZE Jamestown still smarts from the loss of a $2 billion nitrogen fertilizer plant planned by a Minnesota cooperative. But they felt a little better this week when Minnesota Soybean Processors announced plans for a $240 million plant near Jamestown. The new plant will take an amount equal to about 22 percent of ND's annual soybean crop, but will draw beans from surrounding states.

REFUGEES The state's refugee resettlement agency is Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, which operates sites in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck. Last year, LSS helped to resettle 558 people in ND of which 85 percent were reuniting with families. According to LSS, 70 percent of the resettlement in the state occurs in the Fargo area, about 20 percent in Grand Forks and 10 percent in Bismarck.

FLEEING TO CANADA An immigration center in Winnipeg is swamped by immigrants seeking refugee status who have crossed through ND. The director of the center said, “They did not file anything in the U.S. at all, just because they said they were fearful of deportation." They are primarily from Somalia, Djibouti and Ghana and are believed to be mostly people with expired visas. Monday of last week, 10 people walked across the border from ND. Since late summer, 27 men from Ghana walked to Manitoba -- two lost all their fingers to frostbite in December and nearly froze to death.

FARM INCOME in ND will continue to decline according to a USDA research service. Nationally, net farm income is projected to fall 9 percent in 2017 -- ND may be worse than the national average.

FARMLAND PRICES in ND also continue to decline. The state’s non-irrigated cropland had an average value of $2,459 an acre in 2016, down from a peak $2,953 in 2013. Red River Valley values are much higher. More farmers and landowners are considering flexible rental agreements in which the farmer operator pays a base rent then shares a “bonus” with the landowner, if yields and prices are favorable.

CRAIG COBB is a self-proclaimed white supremacist. His attempts to acquire property in tiny ND towns have alarmed residents, in some cases, to the point of hysteria. Cobb’s efforts in Leith and Antler were thwarted. He has moved into a former Lutheran church in Nome, about 25 miles south of Valley City. Nome residents are frustrated by their inability to do anything, since Cobb has broken no laws.

ALFRED FRAPPIER (85) gleefully bragged that he was fourth in his class at McHenry High School in 1949. His obituary said there were only four in his class.

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