Officials Encourage Producers to Monitor Flood Threats

BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is encouraging farmers and ranchers in northeast and north central North Dakota to monitor conditions and evaluate their operations for potential flood impacts that could affect livestock and other property.

Rivers and streams in northeast North Dakota are expected to crest this weekend. National Weather Service data indicates snow melt with a significant rain event could create overland or increased river and stream flooding.

Goehring suggests all producers take a few moments during their spring preparations to plan the movement of their livestock, and review the locations of feed, stored grain, chemicals and equipment both inside and outside of storage buildings. He also encourages producers to be aware of roads susceptible to floodwaters that could limit emergency travel and access to livestock or stored grain.

“Producers in flood watch or warning areas should monitor forecasts closely, identify steps to minimize impacts to their livestock and property, and keep accurate documentation, including dates and photographs of impacted property,” Goehring said.

River flow forecasts show the potential to impact agricultural operations, including the potential to cut off farmsteads. Governor Doug Burgum has also issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Walsh County based a potential record flooding of the Park River.

“Make sure that your weather radios and communication equipment are in good working order and monitor the radio for new forecasts,” he said.

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Basin Electric’s Response to President Trump’s Clean Power Plan Executive Order

BISMARCK – Basin Electric CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut today issued the following statement on President Trump’s executive order on the Clean Power Plan (CPP): “President Trump’s announcement today is a positive step forward in our efforts to seek time and flexibility when it comes to developing a carbon management plan, hopefully, in the context of a national energy policy.

“EPA’s Clean Power Plan would have significant impacts on Basin Electric and our membership. Of the 13 states hit the hardest by this rule, eight are in Basin Electric’s service territory. Financially, Basin Electric would have to spend billions of dollars to comply. These dollars would simply cover adding new generation and potentially impact the operations of our existing facilities. This does not even include the expense of additional electric, gas or transmission infrastructure to support the new generation required to meet the proposed mandates of the CPP. These costs would be unfairly borne by our membership.

“Over the last decade, Basin Electric and our membership have taken a leadership role in the development of renewable generation. We’ve added more than 1,500 megawatts of wind generation to our system (which represents approximately 23 percent of our generation capacity), invested more than $1 billion in natural gas generation resources and have invested more than $1.6 billion in emissions control technology to make our already clean generation fleet even cleaner. Even more, our Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant is home to North America’s largest carbon capture and sequestration project – capturing more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Our most recent project to add urea production to the Synfuels Plant continues that tradition by capturing CO2 to make urea and for sale as a food grade product. It’s important to note that the CPP, as proposed, did not allow Basin Electric credit for our current investments in natural gas generation or renewables, nor our carbon sequestration efforts through Dakota Gas.

“President Trump’s action today does not, however, impact Basin Electric’s efforts to seek a viable path forward in a carbon constrained future. We are actively seeking solutions that reduce our carbon footprint while keeping coal as part of our energy portfolio, preserving both the reliability and cost competitiveness of our members energy supply. In addition to our wind and natural gas investments, we are actively working to advance clean coal technology. Examples include hosting the Integrated Test Center at our Dry Fork Station, Gillette, Wyo., and our investments in research, most recently, in the development of a high efficiency power generation technology that generates high quality CO2 as a product stream, along with participation in DOE’s CarbonSAFE program to further the science of CO2 sequestration in saline aquifers.”

In November 2015, utilities across the country, including Basin Electric, filed a Motion to Stay with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which was denied. On Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Basin Electric and several other petitioners’ Motion to Stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, giving the current administration time to review the rule and issue today’s executive order.

Protest Clean-Up Cost North Dakota $38 Million

BISMARCK – Governor Doug Borgum seeks federal reimbursement as a potential means of recovering the $38-million cost of policing and cleaning up after protestors who demonstrated against the Dakota Access Pipeline for months, according to a new article by Forbes.

All options are on the table,” according to Mike Nowatski, a spokesman from Borgum’s office. “The governor’s office has been in discussions with both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and White House officials to emphasize the state’s position that federal reimbursement is warranted.

Greenpeace – one of the several environmental groups that were present at the camps and raised millions in donations from around the world at the height of protests’ media coverage – said it was not responsible for the clean-up, charging Energy Transfer Partners and the consortium of companies that built the pipeline with the job instead.

 “Any environmental concerns sit at the feet of the pipeline decision-makers,” group spokesperson Perry Wheeler said in an email.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II, one of the main tribes that organized the dissenting movement against the $3.8 billion DAPL, expressed his condemnation of the way environmental protestors managed federal lands to VICE News.

He continued: “Before this entire movement started, that was some of the most beautiful land around. There was a place down there where eagles, over 100 eagles would come and land. There were game down there — deer, pheasants, elk, geese. Now, it’s occupied by people. And when masses of people come to one place, we don’t take care of it.”

The camps housing protestors from across the nation were located on the flood plain, meaning any waste that remains will likely be carried by the rain into the Cannonball River, contaminating local water resources as spring emerges.

Highway 1806 South of Mandan to Open on Friday

MANDAN – The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Highway Patrol will continue their phased reopening of State Highway 1806, by allowing two-way traffic via pilot cars beginning noon on Friday, March 17. The pilot cars will escort vehicles approximately nine miles between Fort Rice and a point south of the Cannonball Bridge. This process will continue until state and county officials determine it is safe to resume normal traffic flow.

“The conditions were met to continue our phased approach to reopening Highway 1806,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “We understand that opening this road is important to facilitate the routine business and commutes that take place along the 1806 corridor. We ask motorists to be patient as we continue this phased approach to fully reopening Highway 1806.”

Contractors have removed 21,480,000 pounds of trash and debris from the three areas of land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Contractors and the North Dakota Department of Transportation are working this week to clear additional debris from ditches and mud from the roadway south of Backwater Bridge.

“From the outset, our priorities were public safety, protecting the environment and bringing this situation to a peaceful resolution,” said Gov. Doug Burgum. “With the camps and roadway cleared, we can now move toward re-establishing traffic on Highway 1806 and restoring normalcy for the residents of Morton and Sioux counties and all of North Dakota. We ask for the cooperation of all parties to ensure a smooth transition.”

Motorists should expect delays of up to 30 minutes and to plan their travel accordingly. Anyone hindering the pilot car process or parking along the highway will be subject to arrest.

Law enforcement will continue to patrol the area. Roads may become slippery due to mud and other debris from trucks entering and exiting the roadway.

North Dakota Ranks #2 in National DUI Rankings

BISMARCK – Longtime residents of the Peace Garden state, have long known about their skeleton in the closet when it comes to national rankings, DUI problems.

In an effort to keep Americans safer on the roads this year, BackgroundChecks.org ranked states with the worst DUI problems. The report was released on March 9, 2017. BackgroundChecks.org used a combination of CDC, Department of Transportation data, and local state data, to create a comprehensive scoring for each state.

North Dakota was ranked #2 on the 10 worst states with DUI Problems .

The top 10 states with DUI problems in America are Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, South Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Maine.

“The fact that over 10,000 people a year die from DUI related accidents is a travesty”, said Trent Wilson, co-author of the research. “We hope this research will open some eyes and make people think twice before drinking and driving.”

DUIs were on the rise in 2016, according to data released late last year by the CDC.

BackgroundChecks.org is an organization devoted to Public Safety, Online Privacy, Home Security, and Open Government. Their technology tools and resources are used by hundreds of thousands of users each to month. As part of their commitment to public safety, they constantly conduct new research to shed insight on issues that affect the public welfare.

Volkswagen Emissions Decree Ripples Down to North Dakota

BISMARCK – On October 25, 2016, a partial Consent Decree was finalized between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Volkswagen Corporation regarding the installation and use of emissions testing defeat devices in thousands of vehicles sold and operated in the United States beginning in 2009. These devices violated the federal Clean Air Act and increased air emissions of the pollutant nitrogen oxide (NOx).

An environmental mitigation trust is being established as part of the partial Consent Decree to provide funds to the states to mitigate the negative air quality impacts. North Dakota’s share of the trust will be up to 7.5 million dollars. The partial Consent Decree establishes a process for states to receive the funds and develop mitigation plans. It also identifies mitigation “actions” or projects eligible for funding.

The partial Consent Decree identifying eligible projects can be viewed at https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/volkswagen-clean-air-act-civil-settlement.

The Governor’s Office has appointed the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) to develop and implement the mitigation plan for North Dakota. The plan will be based on actions that reduce emissions of NOx and provide the greatest air quality benefit for the public. The NDDoH is seeking public input on drafting the mitigation plan. Interested parties may provide comments by following the requirements outlined in the partial Consent Decree. The NDDoH is not soliciting a request for project proposals at this time, but rather it is seeking comments to help guide the development of the mitigation plan.

A 30-day public comment period will begin Mar. 1, 2017, and end Mar. 31, 2017. Comments should be provided in writing to the NDDoH, Division of Air Quality, 918 E. Divide Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58501-1947. Comments also may be emailed to: airquality@nd.gov. Comments must be received by the end of the public comment period to be considered in the development of the final mitigation plan. For more information, visit http://www.ndhealth.gov/aq/Enforce.aspx.

Oceti Sakowin Camp Officially Cleared of Inhabitants

BISMARCK -The drama at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp may have finally reached an end? Thursday morning, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with protesters from the Oceti Sakowin camp and discussed USACE priorities to clean up the area and restore the land to its pre-protest condition. Law enforcement then entered the camp around 10:45am to begin clearing the area to create an environment conducive to clean up. All inhabitants of the camp were officially cleared at 2:09pm.

Approximately 50 protesters came to the area where law enforcement entered the camp and law enforcement announced to protesters to disperse and head south to avoid arrest. They did not all comply and approximately 23 arrests were made.

As the clearing progressed, law enforcement eventually arrested a total of 46 protesters. Many protesters exited the camp voluntarily throughout the day.

The coordinated effort between local, state, and out-of-state law enforcement allowed for an extremely successful operation in the midst of a dynamic situation. As law enforcement cleared the area, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation began to work through the area to process potential crime scenes.

“The past two days have gone very smoothly in a challenging environment and complex effort to clear the camp,” said Gov. Doug Burgum.  “Dozens of local, state and federal agencies showed tremendous coordination to ensure the process was conducted safely and securely. Law enforcement exercised restraint and demonstrated professionalism in every respect.”

Law enforcement did not use any less-than-lethal munitions today. A veterans group occupying a tent refused to leave voluntarily, saying they would not be violent, but they would only go with passive resistance therefore law enforcement had to carry them out.

“I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti camp,” said Kyle Kirchmeier, Morton County Sheriff.  “I am hopeful that this announcement brings us closer to finality in what has been an incredibly challenging time for our citizens and law enforcement professionals. Having dealt with riots, violence, trespassing and property crimes, the people of Morton County are looking forward to getting back to their normal lives.”

“I believe I speak for all Morton County residents when I say I’m proud that law enforcement professionals were able to achieve clearing the camp without any major injuries to themselves or protesters,” said Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz. “We know this brings us one step closer to closure and now we can focus on the important mission of cleaning up the environment and strengthening our relationship with our neighbors.”

The ground conditions within the camp today created hazards in that it was very muddy and some law enforcement vehicles got stuck and heavy equipment was required to remove them.

The Corps’ contractor for cleanup is Trinity Analysis & Development Corp. from Shalimar, Florida.  The contract is awarded for just over $1 million if all options are exercised.  This includes cleanup for Oceti Sakowin and Rosebud.  Sacred Stone will be an added phase to the contract when required. The company is expected to be on the Oceti camp barring any weather or logistic delays.

“We’re going to continue to work with North Dakota as we aim to have a permissive environment for contractors,” said Col. John Henderson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We appreciate their assistance and partnership from Morton County which enables us to do our mission to protect the water resources and land resources entrusted to us by the United States.”

The two individuals taken by ambulance yesterday include a 17 year-old female who was flown to a Minneapolis medical center with severe burns to her hands and face. Her 10 year-old brother suffered minor burns and was expected to be released from a Bismarck hospital today. The incident is currently under investigation. An arrestee claiming to have a broken hip yesterday was taken to a Bismarck hospital where he was medically cleared and transported to the Morton County Correctional Center.

When the Backwater Bridge and Cannonball River Bridge re-open is still contingent upon future operations.