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Our view: A disaster occurred this year in North Dakota, and the state’s residents need help

The request for a presidential disaster declaration would allow public assistance to flow into cities, counties and townships to help repair roads and other infrastructure, according to the governor’s office.

Herald pull  quote, 6/27/22
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North Dakota is still feeling the effects of a harsh spring that brought heavy snows and flooding to much of the state.

Among the obvious: Flooding caused troubles at Bourganis Dam near Cavalier, in the far northeastern part of North Dakota. There, the National Guard worked throughout early May to lend aid at the dam, including sending in helicopters to place massive sandbags to reinforce the structure.

And in the town of Cavalier – 82 miles northwest of Grand Forks – residents were urged to evacuate as floodwaters rose the first week of May. Mayor Lacey Hinkle requested “that all citizens in (certain low-lying areas of town) evacuate. ... Please gather your essential belongings and leave now,” a note on social media said on May 1.

It happened after a wet fall was followed by a wet spring. Then came a devastating April blizzard, followed by rainstorms that dropped up to 2 inches on the area over a two-day period. The blizzard – which left up to 30 inches of snow on some parts of the state – and the rainfall made it the second wettest April in state history.

A statewide emergency was declared on April 25. In the weeks that followed, it only got worse.

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A disaster? Absolutely.

That’s why it’s good to see Gov. Doug Burgum write a letter to President Joe Biden, pushing for a presidential disaster declaration for most of North Dakota – a geographic region that encompasses 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 counties.

All told, according to the governor’s office, the spring blizzard and flooding caused more than $57 million in damage across the state – especially to roads, bridges, railways and flood-control infrastructure. Approximately 7,000 utility poles collapsed, leaving some without power for three weeks.

In his letter last week to President Biden, Burgum wrote that the disaster “disproportionately impacted rural North Dakotans, many of whom struggled to find fuel for generators and to save livestock endangered by storm conditions. The losses extended to prime farmland inundated by recent rains at a critical time for planting.” He noted that statewide total farm employment is 29,603, with 22,789 of those workers in the counties affected by the disaster.

The request for a presidential disaster declaration would allow public assistance to flow into cities, counties and townships to help repair roads and other infrastructure, according to the governor’s office.

North Dakota, without doubt, endured a disaster this spring – one that has lasted well beyond the storms that triggered it back in the spring. Public entities need funds to help pay for the repairs that occurred, and the ag industry is still reeling from the effects. We may not know the true cost until harvest season.

A disaster occurred in North Dakota, and the state’s residents need help. In pushing for the presidential disaster declaration, Burgum is doing the right thing. Hopefully, the Biden administration agrees.

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