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Biden grants presidential disaster declaration for 40 North Dakota counties after spring storms, flooding

The disaster declaration includes the northeastern North Dakota counties of Pembina, Walsh, Grand Forks, Traill, Cavalier, Ramsey, Nelson, Steele and Griggs, which saw river and overland flooding during the series of storms.

Kyle Gagner Bourbanis Dam.jpeg
Sandbags placed by the North Dakota National Guard near the Bourbanis Dam in May to slow erosion.
Contributed / Kyle Gagner
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BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum announced on Thursday, July 14, that President Joe Biden has granted a presidential major disaster declaration for 40 North Dakota counties affected by severe storms and subsequent flooding from April 22 to May 25 that broke precipitation records, caused power outages for more than 10,000 residents and caused more than $57 million in damage across the state.

The disaster declaration includes the northeastern North Dakota counties of Pembina, Walsh, Grand Forks, Traill, Cavalier, Ramsey, Nelson, Steele and Griggs, which saw river and overland flooding during the series of storms. The disaster declaration allows local governments to access Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to repair public infrastructure damaged in the storms.

In June, Burgum requested President Biden and FEMA declare a major disaster for 40 counties in North Dakota : Adams, Barnes, Billings, Bottineau, Burke, Cavalier, Dickey, Divide, Dunn, Foster, Golden Valley, Grand Forks, Grant, Griggs, Hettinger, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McHenry, McIntosh, McKenzie, McLean, Mountrail, Nelson, Oliver, Pembina, Ramsey, Ransom, Renville, Richland, Rolette, Sargent, Steele, Stutsman, Towner, Traill, Walsh, Ward, Wells and Williams.

The last thing we need is a bunch of opportunistic politicians jumping into the debate over carbon pipelines not to protect their constituents but to exact revenge on their political enemies.

On July 14, the state received notice that the request was granted covering all 40 counties. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and if warranted as a result of further damage assessments. All areas of North Dakota are also eligible for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which helps communities pay for projects that increase resiliency and reduce costs in the long term.

“We appreciate President Biden and FEMA granting our request and recognizing the incredible hardship that this combination of severe storms and flooding caused for our farmers and ranchers, communities, local governments and first responders,” Burgum said. “This presidential disaster declaration will unlock FEMA public assistance to help our local governments, agencies and communities recover from extensive infrastructure damage and make resources available to help build resilience against the long-term risk of future flooding. We’re also grateful to the Minnesota National Guard for its valuable assistance with flood-fighting capabilities under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.”


The storms from April 22 to May 25, included a series of wintry, mixed precipitation events around the state resulting in significant freezing rain, heavy snow, sleet and downpours. The severe weather caused damage to infrastructure including roads, bridges and railways and threatened the stability of flood control structures including the Bourbanis Dam near Cavalier , where North Dakota National Guard Black Hawk helicopters placed 213 one-ton sandbags to stabilize areas of concern around the dam. Strong winds and ice buildup from freezing rain led to the collapse of 7,000 utility poles and at least 550 miles of damage to electric infrastructure, leaving households in western North Dakota without power for up to three and a half weeks.

Infrastructure damage is currently estimated at over $57 million, with that number expected to climb once all damaged sites are tallied. Burgum previously declared a statewide emergency for the April 22-24 storm , which caused major damage to electric grid infrastructure in western North Dakota and kickstarted the flooding that impacted the eastern half of North Dakota for the following 30 days. The storm was preceded by an April 12-14 blizzard that dumped more than 30 inches of snow on some areas and was exacerbated by a third storm April 29-30 that dumped record rainfall. April 2022 was the second wettest April on record in North Dakota.

In June, North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong expressed their support for the request in a letter to Biden.

“North Dakota saw unprecedented levels of precipitation this spring in the forms of heavy downpours, snowfall, sleet and freezing rain,” said the delegation after the request was approved. “These storms had significant and widespread impact, causing long-lasting flooding and power outages. That’s why we worked with Gov. Burgum to advance this disaster declaration, which will help cover the costs of recovery, while making resources available to improve resiliency in the long-term.”

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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