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Panel approves Outdoor Heritage Fund grants; Awards include money for Grand Forks river access; exception made for playground equipment

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Industrial Commission awarded 17 grants totaling $2.5 million Tuesday from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, less than half the amount doled out during the first grant round in January.

The second batch includes $75,000 to improve river access in downtown Grand Forks. The three-member commission also made an exception in approving $45,000 for playground equipment in Munich in northeastern North Dakota.

Wade Moser, chairman of the board that advises the commission on which grants to fund, said there were 26 grant requests totaling $6.8 million in the second round, compared with 74 requests for more than $34 million in the first round.

The commission approved 17 grants totaling nearly $5.85 million in the first round, and also clarified what types of projects won’t be considered, including research, paving and swimming pools.

Moser said board members have struggled with grant requests for playground equipment and rejected a lot of them, but they made an exception for Munich “because they went out and go so much local support for this.” The city raised $64,329 in matching funds for the $45,000 grant.

The $75,000 grant for Grand Forks will support a $100,000 project to install a concrete stairway with a removable railing and platforms to provide safe access to the Red River at different levels. The project also will improve access to a boathouse run by a nonprofit group that will rent canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, according to the city’s grant application.

Moser said the board has rejected grant requests from Fargo and Valley City for projects in flood-prone areas but looked favorably on Grand Forks’ request because of the flood protection already in place. The board approved the grant on an 11-0 vote.

“We wanted to send a signal to these others that there’s going to be money available for these projects” once their flood protection plans are in place, he said.

The state Legislature created the Outdoor Heritage Fund last year, limiting the grants to $30 million every two years from state oil and gas production tax revenue. Three grant rounds remain this biennium, with the application deadline for the next round on Aug. 1.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who chairs the commission, asked Moser if he was surprised the board hadn’t received more, larger grant applications from organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.

“I would have thought by now they would have some pretty big requests in to you,” he said.

Moser noted Ducks Unlimited made a $710,400 request, but it wasn’t funded because the group has a similar existing program. He said he expects the board will see more applications from smaller groups in the next round because the North Dakota Petroleum Council has hired a consultant to help wildlife chapters apply for grants.

“I think that’s going to be very positive,” he said.

The list of grant awards is contained in the commission’s agenda posted online at /ic-press/magenda.pdf.

The commission also approved a new Outdoor Heritage Fund logo, designed by the state Game and Fish Department.

Reach Mike Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at