BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring announced today that the State Water Commission has approved two new water supply programs and allocated an additional $2 million to the Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program to help farmers and ranchers battling North Dakota’s worst drought conditions in at least 30 years.
“North Dakota producers continue to face unprecedented drought conditions that are devastating crops, decimating livestock herds and destroying billions of dollars in value on farms and ranches that have been built over generations,” said Burgum, who chairs the State Water Commission. (Click here for audio) “The relief approved today will help livestock producers manage this adversity and invest in infrastructure that builds resiliency against extreme drought conditions now and in the future.”
“The actions taken by the State Water Commission today will provide much needed relief to producers who are making difficult decisions every day to work through this drought,” Goehring said. (Click here for audio) “The Emergency Water Supply Program will assist producers in filling the gap between immediate needs and long-term solutions.”
The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows 10% of North Dakota is in exceptional drought, 42% is in extreme drought, 46% percent is in severe drought and the remaining 2% is in moderate drought. Burgum declared a statewide drought disaster in early April, and drought conditions have only continued to deteriorate.
Since the Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program was reactivated in April, the State Water Commission has approved $3.8 million for 963 projects involving 669 livestock producers, leaving a balance of $313,000 for additional projects.
During a special meeting today, the Commission voted to allocate an additional $2 million to the program. The money will come from a $6 million discretionary fund for water project grants, which was appropriated by the Legislature in the 2021-23 budget for the newly renamed Department of Water Resources.
Because of the intense demand for the program, the wait list for a water well driller often exceeds six months, and help is needed to cover the gap until a new well or other water source is secured.
To cover the gap, Department of Water Resources staff worked with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, Department of Agriculture, state legislators and the Governor’s Office to propose an Emergency Water Supply Program. The Commission today approved the program with $2 million from the discretionary fund.
The Emergency Water Supply Program will reimburse producers for 50% of eligible costs for temporary water supply, equipment and hauling, up to $4,500 per individual. The Department of Agriculture will administer the program and forward approved expenses to the Department of Water Resources for reimbursement.
“This program will provide a much-needed, immediate water supply for livestock producers who are currently on a waiting list for a permanent water supply,” said John Paczkowski, interim state engineer.
Applications will be available on August 23, 2021. For more information including eligibility and what will be needed for a complete application, go to the Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Water Supply Program are available on their website at www.. Eligible livestock producers seeking more information about the program may contact the department at 844-642-4752.
The Commission also approved funding for a Permanent Trust Lands Water Supply Program, which will support the installation of permanent wells, pasture taps and water pipelines on state-owned trust lands that are leased for grazing.
The North Dakota Department of Trust Lands currently cost shares up to $11,100 for water wells, $1,575 for rural water pasture taps and $5,600 for water pipelines that originate from a water source on trust land. In approving the program today, the Commission authorized $1 million to cover any costs that exceed the current maximum cost-share amounts for a permanent water supply on trust lands. The program was created after consultation with legislators, the Stockmen’s Association, the Department of Trust Lands, Governor’s Office and Water Resources staff.
The Department of Trust Lands will identify eligible projects based on need and lessee interest and issue a Permanent Improvement Permit for approved projects. For more information, contact Jacob Lardy at (701) 328-1919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view maps showing current burn ban restrictions and fire danger levels, and for information on how to prevent wildfires, visit www.ndresponse.gov.
Travnicek approved as director
The Commission also approved the appointment of North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department Director Andrea Travnicek to serve as director of the Department of Water Resources.
As a result of House Bill 1353 passed during the 2021 legislative session, the Department of Water Resources will replace the State Water Commission as the primary state water agency on Sunday, Aug. 1. Travnicek will hire and oversee the State Engineer and Department of Water Resources staff.
The State Water Commission consists of Burgum, Goehring, and eight members appointed by the governor to six-year terms, with one member from each of the drainage basins in North Dakota.