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Our view: 5 good-news items that possibly were overshadowed by gas prices, inflation and the war in Ukraine

But here in Grand Forks, and the region, some great things have happened, possibly overshadowed by national – and decidedly more dismal – news.

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High gas prices, inflation, the war in Ukraine – there isn’t a lot of good news happening nationally in recent weeks. But here in Grand Forks, and the region, some great things have happened, possibly overshadowed by national – and decidedly more dismal – news.

Here are five, from the past week of reporting by the Herald.

The drought is over: The region’s drought, at least for the time being, is over. On March 1, the U.S. drought monitor showed that all of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota is free of drought for the first time since September 2020. During an 18-month stretch, some or all of the Red River Valley was classified as at least abnormally dry, with the worst coming last August.

Autumn rains and heavy snows have combined to spark optimism around these parts.

“It was nice to get that rain into the ground before freeze-up,” Katelyn Landeis, NDSU Extension agent for Grand Forks County, recently told the Herald. “In terms of spring, at least there’s been some fall moisture and now we’ve had some good winter snow and snowpack, so things are actually looking up going into spring.”

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Border restrictions are being eased: The Canadian government soon will no longer be required to take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test. The official announcement came Thursday.

It means stringent testing requirements will end by the end of the month. At present, vaccinated travelers entering Canada are required to show proof of a negative antigen test taken within a day of crossing the border, or a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours of crossing the border.

The change will ease cross-border travel and, we assume, will help spur more tourism and travel between the countries. That’s good for Grand Forks and regional businesses.

Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, called the move a “step in the right direction” that will make travel easier for people visiting the Northwest Angle.

“It’s welcome news for sure,” Henry said.

Oil drilling is up in North Dakota: A Forum News Service report this week noted that oil producers are picking up the pace as gas prices continue to rise nationwide. In January, North Dakota produced about 1.09 million barrels of oil per day, down by about 5% from December and generally holding a stagnant pattern over the past year. Now, production could rise by about 100,000 barrels per day by year’s end as companies look to take advantage of increasing demand – and $100-per-barrel oil.

Increasing production in North Dakota fields will help boost American reserves, but also will give a bit of a jolt to the state’s economy and add to the state Legacy Fund, the people’s savings account that derives its revenue from taxes on oil production and now stands at some $8.7 billion. Some are predicting North Dakota’s oil industry to go out of business by 2050, so it’s good to make hay while the sun’s shining.

Full financial support for tech academy: The planned Career Impact Academy in Grand Forks this week received $10 million in matching funds from the state Department of Career and Technical Education. It means the academy – which will provide hands-on technical education for students in and around Grand Forks – can now move full-steam ahead. This project started as a simple idea to help staff hard-to-fill jobs in the region. After $11 million was raised locally – the great majority of it from private entities that want to better the community’s economic future – its likelihood (and its importance) grew exponentially. Now, with the maximum amount possible awarded by the state, the project’s backers have $21 million at the ready to make it a reality.

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Sales tax bump: Sales tax collections in Grand Forks hit a record high in February, with $3.32 million in collections.

Yes, it’s possible the figure is boosted by simple inflation – higher prices mean higher sales taxes, after all – but that can’t be the entire story. City Administrator Todd Feland told the Herald that in recent months, “we really picked up our momentum. I think it’s really a positive.”

So do we.

What to read next
A discussion Monday by the Grand Forks Committee of the Whole could lead to changes for public comments at city meetings.