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Hazard mitigation plan for Billings, Dunn and Golden Valley counties in works

MEDORA -- It certainly wasn't on par with a taping of the popular reality TV hit "Doomsday Preppers," but Thursday's multi-county hazard mitigation workshop at the North Dakota Hall of Fame had attendees thinking about preparedness.

In an effort to become eligible under government guidelines for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to help reduce the chances of a major hazard, the Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council for Development took about 45 minutes to outline a plan that would team the counties of Billings, Dunn and Golden Valley together to adopt North Dakota's first-ever multi-country mitigation strategy.

Gene Buresh of the RCRCD said a planning committee for the joint venture has been in place and that a rough draft of possible actions taken should be sent off to the state approval and, if green-lighted, for federal approval this summer.

"If everything goes according to plan, we could have the plan ready for final approval by Thanksgiving," Buresh said. "A draft will be sent to Bismarck and then on to Denver, if no adjustments are needed."

Basically, the plan would outline certain steps that could be taken to help prevent a broad range hazards in 11 different categories (disease, dam failure, drought, flood, hazardous material, homeland security, shortage or outage of infrastructure, storms, mass transportation accidents or wild fire.)

If approved, most of the funding -- about two-thirds -- would come from the federal government with state and local governments kicking in a lesser amount. Any mitigation plan would encompass all communities in the three counties. Buresh noted that many of the potential hazards are not likely to happen in southwest North Dakota, although some -- such as wild fires -- have and are expected to happen frequently.

"We're in the process of putting the actual document together," Buresh said. "Once we get the draft of the document completed, we'll put it on our website and have meetings to review it. If mitigation funds are available at the federal level, communities would be able to secure them and then become eligible for federal funds in the case of a presidential disaster declaration."

A handful of people attended the meeting. Buresh said meetings will take place in Stark County in the coming weeks for what would be a separate mitigation plan.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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