Governor Jack Dalrymple today released a state report that summarizes feedback gathered during 14 public meetings recently held throughout western North Dakota's oil-producing counties.
In January, officials from nine state agencies and institutions participated in the meetings to gain a greater understanding of the challenges created by rapid oil and gas development. About 600 local officials and residents attended the meetings and shared their perspectives. Dalrymple outlined the report today during news conferences in Bismarck and Williston.
"This report sums up the overriding needs as expressed by local officials and other community leaders from Crosby to Bowman," Dalrymple said. "We are providing a tremendous amount of funding and resources throughout western North Dakota's oil counties to tackle the challenges outlined in the report. The state is committed to meeting these challenges on a daily basis."
Dalrymple also announced his decision to assign a state Energy Impact Coordinator to monitor local issues and report on the region's progress and needs to the Governor's Office and Cabinet members.
"We need a greater presence in northwest North Dakota and an Energy Impact Coordinator will provide that," Dalrymple said. "The coordinator will work closely with local officials and community leaders and help us stay on top of the region's needs."
Common challenges expressed by local officials and included in the report are the region's needs for the continued development of affordable housing, infrastructure upgrades and public safety enhancements. The report can be found at www.NDCommerce.com/WesternND.
The report outlines other challenges voiced by local officials as well as strategies underway and planned to help meet the region's needs. The report also includes an update on current funding allocations and commitments to:
Explore adjustments to the oil tax distribution formula
Draft a legislative proposal that calls for sharing with counties revenues from load-limit fines that are generated on county highways
Designate the Commerce Department to enhance collaboration and serve as a conduit for state, federal and local government responses to oil impacts.
Explore additional funding sources for school building construction
"Together, we can meet our challenges and for the longer term, we have a unique opportunity to enhance our communities in oil country and build an even stronger North Dakota for generations to come," Dalrymple said.
During the 2011-2013 biennium, the state will provide $1.2 billion to help meet the region's needs. In the first seven months of the biennium, the state has allocated $391 million to political subdivisions throughout oil country. Still, most of the region's funding, about $806 million, remains to be distributed for:
Facilitating the continued development of affordable housing
Enhancing law enforcement, other emergency services and regulatory oversight
Constructing truck-reliever routes
Rebuilding and repairing county, township and state roadways
Extending city streets and utilities for residential growth
Addressing growing student enrollments
Expanding and upgrading municipal wastewater treatment systems
Developing water supply systems
State assistance in North Dakota's oil country includes oil tax revenues which are allocated monthly to counties and cities; grants from the Energy Impact Fund; funding for county, township and state road improvement projects; tax credits for the development of affordable housing and financial assistance to deliver water to western North Dakota.
Planning for reconstruction projects on the poorest of roads in the oil and gas counties was completed in 2010 by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute and those projects are being completed now as part of 2011 legislative action. In 2011, the state Department of Transportation oversaw more than 600 miles of road improvement projects in the 17 oil and gas counties. The state's road improvement plan will be updated again this year and every two years thereafter.
The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency has commissioned a statewide housing study to be completed in the summer of 2012. The study will include specific assessments regarding the need for housing in Oil Country. Following Dalrymple's recommendation, the 2011 Legislative Assembly expanded the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF) which includes $13.5 million in tax credits for the development of affordable housing in Oil Country during the 2011-2013 biennium. To date, the NDHFA has leveraged $3.8 million in conditional commitments for the construction of 286 affordable housing units in oil country. The residential housing projects, valued at $42 million, are in various stages of construction.