Commission OKs $1 million for livestock water projects
BISMARCK -- A million-dollar pool of state money is now available for North Dakota livestock producers to tap into for watering their herds.
The state Water Commission approved the funds late Wednesday, following up on Gov. John Hoeven's drought declaration last Friday.
Last month, the state climatologist said the six months ending in April had been the driest in state history since record-keeping began 113 years ago.
Some counties in the state received rain and snow on Saturday and have rescinded their burn bans but it was not enough moisture to reverse this spring's drought.
About 100 producers had requested applications even before the commission met, State Engineer Dale Frink told commissioners.
"I was pretty shocked at that," he said.
Hoeven said after the meeting that the applications are considered in the order in which they come in, and that probably explains the early demand.
The program provides up to $3,500 matching funds for livestock producers to drill a new well, tap into a rural water system or dig a new stock pond or "dugout." Each producer can get $3,500 for each of three projects, for a potential total of more than $10,000 per producer. The $3,500 cap in state funds per project is in state law.
Commissioners at first considered starting the program with a $500,000 pool, but Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said it was unlikely to cover the 100 producers who already want to apply.
"Why do we think a half million is even going to be enough to start with?" he asked.
Water Commission staffer Lee Klapprodt said the last time the program was used was 2006-07 and the approved projects totaled $1.2 million. In that case, the fund was first set up with about $300,000 and then was boosted several times as demand outstripped the fund.
Commissioners can meet again and add to the $1 million program if need be, Johnson said.
The money comes from un-allocated funds in the Water Commission's budget.
Last week, 29 counties had burn bans in place. Eleven of them have since rescinded their bans, and one, Grand Forks, reinstated a ban it had rescinded late last week, according to the state Department of Emergency Services.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.