Dalrymple outlines plans for governorship
Building up the state's infrastructure, providing tax relief and dealing with the threat of flooding are among Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple's main priorities he'll focus on when he becomes North Dakota's 32nd governor, he said Friday.
Dalrymple discussed considerations he's weighing as he finalizes a list of budget recommendations he'll present Dec. 8 to the North Dakota Legislature, during a meeting with The Grand Forks Herald's editorial board.
On Dec. 7, Gov. John Hoeven will resign halfway through his third term in office to become the state's newest U.S. senator. Dalrymple announced Thursday that he'll appoint former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley to take his place as lieutenant governor after Hoeven steps down.
He said he's already well along in the budget planning process, but Tuesday's election brought about an "interesting situation" that might influence his recommendations. Republican victories in North Dakota's legislative races gave Republicans several new seats and a boost to the party's majority status in both the House and Senate.
"One would have to say that if you thought it was hard to get something through the Legislature before, this is going to really be the all-time tight sieve," he said. "We may take that into account a little bit at the last minute."
While Dalrymple said his leadership mostly will be a "continuation" of Hoeven's focus on "developing, growing and diversifying the state economy," he did offer some insight into his own priorities that will influence what he'll recommend to legislators next month.
With booming oil, gas, coal and wind development across the state, Dalrymple said North Dakota needs to "elevate" energy development to a higher status within the government.
He said the state should establish an office of energy development as a division of the Department of Commerce as one step in accomplishing that goal.
"The payoff in my opinion will be huge for everybody," he said.
But Dalrymple said rising energy production is part of the reason the state needs to put an "emphasis" on building up roads and bridges -- especially in western communities near the booming oilfields.
"Not that we've been neglecting that," he said. "But we know we have some huge commitments out there that we're going to need to make."
Dalrymple said the flood threat to Fargo and West Fargo "has got to be addressed" and the region needs a diversion to control the Red River and prevent disaster. Dealing with the diversion's impacts to downstream communities also needs to be a part of that effort, he said.
And Dalrymple outlined his plan to tackle the rising Devils Lake. The lake has risen by about 30 feet in the past 17 years, reaching a record 1452.1 feet this summer -- less than 6 feet from a level that officials estimate would cause a natural and uncontrollable spill out of connecting Stump Lake into the Sheyenne River.
Dalrymple said he thinks increasing the flow of a west-end outlet, adding an east-end outlet that would run at a smaller flow and finishing a prevention measure project at the Tolna Coulee would help deal with the lake's threat to Devils Lake and other nearby communities.
But he acknowledged it won't be an easy fix. He said increasing outlet flows would boost sulfate levels in drinking water for some communities, including Valley City -- which means the state would have new issues to deal with.
Dalrymple said other infrastructure necessities include improving the water supply in northwestern North Dakota and building up the state's pipelines and transmission lines to get its energy to the market.
"Add it all together, and this is going to be a five-year period where infrastructure is going to be really what we need to spend a lot of time and effort on," he said. "And I think we can do it."
But Dalrymple said one of his first issues in office might simply be reigning in some legislators' plans after an election that boosted Republican control in the state Legislature.
Johnson is a reporter at The Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.