Dalrymple signs appropriations bill

As Minot legislators and local officials looked over his shoulder, Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed an appropriations bill Thursday that includes $61 million in flood protection assistance for Minot and Ward County.

Dalrymple held a news conference in Minot City Hall to highlight legislation passed by the 2013 Legislature that benefits Minot. The largest sum coming to the area is the money for property acquisitions and continued engineering related to a proposed flood protection project.

“That bill is more meaningful than it has ever been in state history,” Dalrymple said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in money for water projects, flood protection, water supply of all kinds. In that bill is $61 million for Minot and Ward County for flood protection in the Souris River area. Most of that money is going to be available on a very flexible basis to acquire properties that are going to be needed for permanent flood protection.”

Dalrymple noted that the state already has provided about $200 million in response to the 2011 Souris River flooding, plus $50 million in money received by the state from the federal government.

“I think the state has really stepped up, but we continue to do so. This is an ongoing story,” he said.

The governor said the state expects to contribute financially in future legislative sessions as flood protection as plans move forward for the Souris River valley. There’s still a possibility that a flood protection plan for the river basin will become a U.S. Corps of Engineers project, he said. Property acquisitions and engineering being done in the meantime in Minot and Ward County can be incorporated into a basinwide project later, he said.

Minot also will receive $12.6 million in oil impact funding under legislation approved this past session.

The dollars are a sign that Minot is finally being recognized as an oil impact and hub community, Dalrymple said.

Mayor Curt Zimbelman said it was a challenge to get legislators to see the impact of oil on Minot.

“I really felt in my heart that the Legislature didn’t understand really the impact of oil on our city, and I think sometimes maybe the flood played a role in that. That was more of the need that needed to be taken care of. But in the end, we were taken care of very well on both ends. So we are going to put those monies to work,” Zimbelman said.

Two appropriations for Minot that Dalrymple singled out were funding for the Rebuilders Loan Fund and oil-impacted airports.

The Legislature re-authorized spending of leftover funds in the Rebuilders Loan Fund, which provides loans of up to $30,000 at 1 percent interest to help homeowners rebuild from the 2011 flood. The Legislature added another $5 million to make $13.5 million available this session.

Legislators also expanded the program to enable existing borrowers to seek additional loans of $20,000, to provide loans up to $30,000 to landlords and to assist displaced residents in federal temporary housing units to buy the units.

House Bill 1358 provided $60 million to oil-impacted airports to match Federal Aviation Administration dollars. Minot already has applied for $25 million, an amount included in the governor’s executive budget.

“Our hope is that the federal government will be able to make the match that is suggested by this grant program, and once we get the confirmation that some federal money is going to be available from the FAA, we will be moving forward,” Dalrymple said.

He noted that Minot’s air traffic has tripled since 2009. For the first quarter of this year, passenger numbers are up 5 percent. The Minot airport is scheduled to construct a 110,000-square-foot passenger terminal to replace an existing 34,000-square-foot terminal.

“We have always relied on the FAA to essentially provide all of the grant money for airport expansions,” Dalrymple said. “We are stepping up for the first time ever and saying we will lead the way because it is the result of a booming industry. We understand that the federal government has had to slow down their grant disbursements significantly, and we are not going to allow this project to be slowed down by any circumstances in Washington, D.C.”