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Monday, January 14, 2019

SCHMID: LOOKING BACK FROM THE LEFT COAST - JANUARY 12, 2019

THE F-M FLOOD DIVERSION moved forward a step when it received a permit from the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.  The permit came with 50 special conditions.  The $2.75 billion project will be funded by $1 billion from Fargo and Cass County, $570 million from the state, $450 million from the feds and $86 million from Minnesota.  That leaves the project about $650 million short.  The Legislature is cautious about further state funding.
THE MOST IMPACTFUL WEATHER EVENTS in the modern history of Fargo were summarized in a Forum article.  The top five were:  Blizzards in 1941 (38 dead in ND) and 1966 (drifts 30-45 feet tall); floods in 1997 (devastated Grand Forks) and 2009; and the Fargo tornado of 1957 (12 killed and 66 city blocks leveled).
RISK IN SPECIALIZATION  A study by a Cornell University economics professor indicates Midwest farmers may be unwittingly increasing their risk by specializing in the production of non-irrigated crops sensitive to climate change.  Farmers with livestock and irrigated crops are less sensitive to climate change.  ND farmers, on the northwest fringe of the Midwest, are generally benefiting from climate change which brings more moisture and a longer growing season.
YOU’RE NOT SURPRISED  ND was picked the third worst state for drunken-driving fatalities per capita — Wyoming and South Carolina did worse.  Minnesota was at the other end, third best — New York and New Jersey did better.  Despite the state’s poor ranking, the ND Dept. of Transportation said ND is steadily reducing alcohol related accidents and deaths.  For example, at Dec. 16 this year the state had 31 alcohol-related deaths, while last year that number was 55.
EXCESSIVE DRINKING  ND is next to last (#49) among states in excessive drinking according to America Health Rankings.  Minnesota (#46) also did not rank well.  That’s one of the reasons Minnesota’s overall health ranking is slipping.  For many years the state was ranked first or second in overall health, but has dropped to seventh place.  Minnesota’s overall ranking hides a considerable disparity between white and minority populations.  ND ranked #13 on the health scale having slid from #1 in 1990.  Cohorts MT, SD and WY all ranked in the #21-25 range and also had higher rankings in 1990.
CAN DEMOCRATS WIN IN ND?  This was the subject of a GF Herald column by Mike Jacobs.  He presented some election arithmetic:  Republicans represent 37% of ND voters, Democrats 27% and nonaligned voters 36%.  If the two parties split the 36%, the result is Republicans 55% and Democrats 45%, which is the way it has been in many recent races.  Jacobs said Demos can win, but they must have “attractive candidates and strong organization.”
HE’S A PEST  Mandan retiree Paul Jordan has made 300 open records requests in Mandan representing 99 percent of all such requests.  He also makes numerous requests to the state’s attorney general.  A 2017 ND law allows a public entity to deny an information request if repeated requests are disruptive.
WISH LIST  The Jamestown Sun reeled off a list of wishes for the city in 2019:  Complete a cancer center at the Jamestown Regional Medical Center, a successful equity drive for the ND Soybean Processors plant near Jamestown, a better farm economy and a new use for the idle Cargill Malt plant at Spiritwood.  Jamestown is saying goodbye to an economically disappointing year.
 
WHOSE COUNTING?  The GF Herald determined which articles got the most clicks in 2018.  A 2012 restaurant review of Olive Garden by octogenarian columnist Marilyn Hagerty won with 127,000 clicks.  The runner-up was the story of a local family of four who were found dead after their vehicle crashed into a creek in Montana.  The third-most was a murder-suicide in which a mentally ill Grand Forks mother killed herself and three children.  Down the list at No. 7 was the Olympic hockey triumph of the Lamoureux twins.
DEATHS INVOLVING CHILDREN topped the list of 2018 stories in three ND communities.  In Grand Forks it was the murder-suicide mentioned above.  In Jamestown it was the  story of Tyr Lange, a Carrington woman whose 4-month-old son died in a slough from starvation and exposure.  A Fargo story was the most gruesome.  Brooke Lynn Crews  was sentenced to life in prison for killing Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and taking a healthy baby from her womb.  Crews intended to raise the baby.
PENALTIES FOR TAMPERING  ND State Senator Janne Myrdal of Edinburg proposes legislation to increase the legal consequences for people who tamper with critical energy infrastructure.  The legislation is inspired by an October 2016 Pembina County incident in which protestors shut down a pipeline.  Groups that fund activists may also be held accountable.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the proposal and its online readers were overwhelmingly supportive.  But the comments of one dissident reader displayed the attitude of anti-pipeline activists: “North Dakota State Senator Janne Myrdal needs to be marginalized as she is one of those fossil fuel glad-handers whose actions are pushing this world into climate change catastrophe.”
 
SKYSCOPES is a Grand Forks-based drone (UAS) company with a growing presence in Minot where it provides services to the Bakken energy sector.  The company uses university trained pilots who are also knowledgeable about compiling and delivering data to end users.  The company hopes to be a major player in the UAS industry.
THE DAKOTA GASIFICATION CO. near Beulah built a profitable business producing nitrogen fertilizer in a plant newly opened in 2018.  Fertilizer prices are volatile, but DGC can weather the prices because it has no competitors within 100 miles giving it the competitive advantage of low distribution costs.  Prior to this development, the affiliated Great Plains Synfuels Plant was posting record losses and faced a shutdown which would have seriously damaged tax base and employment in Beulah.
SOUTH DAKOTA NURSING HOMES are in a financial crisis.  Some have closed and 18 others are in receivership.  The bugaboo is state Medicaid reimbursement rates which leave nursing homes with a daily loss of $32 for each Medicaid resident.
DAKTOIDS:  U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer was named Forum Person of the Year.  Last year that person was football star Carson Wentz.  Let’s hope Cramer fares better than Wentz who has had multiple injuries . . . Kmart, Sears, Macy’s and Hornbacher’s are among stores that recently closed in Grand Forks — the Chamber is forming a committee to address the issue.

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