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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum asks federal government to restore pre-pandemic hours for border crossings

There are 18 international land border crossings along the 310-mile border between North Dakota and Canada, and only the crossings at Pembina, Dunseith and Portal are operating at full capacity and hours.

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A car crosses the border into the United States from Canada at Pembina, North Dakota on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has requested the federal government to restore pre-pandemic operating hours for land border crossings at the U.S.-Canadian border.

In a July 8 letter the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Burgum outlined the economic impact of reduced border crossing rates for North Dakota and requested that normal hours be restored at ports of entry in North Dakota.

There are 18 international land border crossings along the 310-mile border between North Dakota and Canada, and only the crossings at Pembina, Dunseith and Portal are operating at full capacity and hours. Those three ports are operating 24-hours per day. Others operate within normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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According to Burgum, between April 2018 and March 2020, 1.16 million personal vehicle and bus passengers entered North Dakota from Canada. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to May 2022, 184,671 personal vehicle and bus passengers have entered North Dakota from Canada, 15% of the pre-pandemic volume. After the U.S. government rescinded the need for fully-vaccinated travelers into the U.S. to be tested on April 1, 2022, there was a 40% increase in people entering the U.S. through North Dakota ports of entry, noted Burgum, but this number is still 50% less than pre-pandemic levels.

The estimated lost Canadian visitor spending in North Dakota because of the COVID-19 pandemic is more than $283 million, the letter said, with around 10% of annual visitor spending in the state from Canadian travelers. The reduced traffic and spending has been challenging for businesses in the North Dakota counties that border Canada, wrote Burgum.

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“Many of these North Dakota individuals and businesses rely heavily on their Canadian counterparts for multiple reasons in their daily lives, and limited hours at the majority of North Dakota’s border crossings have made these critical interactions much more difficult,” Burgum said in the letter. “While the small expansion of hours after COVID-19 at North Dakota’s ports of entry has been a welcome development, it is imperative that hours of operation return to their pre-pandemic status immediately before further damage is done to the economies and well-being of our border communities.”

A governor’s office spokesman said the main reasons CBP and Homeland Security have cited for continued reduced hours of operation at most of the state’s border crossings have been traffic counts and staffing.

“We are fully prepared to aid CBP in achieving this goal for the benefit of North Dakotans and Canadians impacted by this crisis,” said Burgum.

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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