Counties share oil money
The Associated Press BISMARCK -- Some school children in Dunn County will no longer have to take a roundabout route on their daily bus ride because of a state program that provides money for counties adversely affected by oil development. The Kar...
The Associated Press
BISMARCK -- Some school children in Dunn County will no longer have to take a roundabout route on their daily bus ride because of a state program that provides money for counties adversely affected by oil development.
The Karey Bridge, weakened by weather, traffic and time, will be repaired using a $50,000 grant, the largest single project grant among some $2.4 million approved for local governments in oil-producing counties, said Rick Larson, director of the state Land Department's Energy Development Impact Office.
The grants were approved last month to compensate for the effects of oil activity.
Dunn County bridge was "busted up" by oil traffic, Larson said.
The funds, which are being dolled out beginning this month, come from part of the state's 5 percent oil and gas production tax.
This year, 377 government entities submitted requests totaling more than $40 million. Larson approved 311 requests in 16 oil-producing counties.
Bowman County had received the bulk of the money in recent years because it has the most oil activity. The county accounted for about 40 percent of the state's oil activity last year, but Larson said it did not get the most money.
"I have to look at the financial needs of each of these counties," said Larson, who's the sole person for approving the grants.
Williams County will get $400,500, which is the largest grant award for a county this year, Larson said. The county requested $22.4 million.
Nearly 80 percent of the money goes toward fixing roads in the state, many of which have been damaged by oil-related traffic, he said.
"Oil activity is great and everybody enjoys it but some counties can't keep up with the roads damaged by oil traffic with their budgets," Larson said.
Dunn County Auditor Reinhard Hauck said the Karey Bridge, northwest of Manning, would have "fallen in" if not for the oil-impact grant. The load limit on the bridge was recently reduced from 10 tons to 5 tons due to its condition.
"A school bus without kids is 5 tons," he said.
Hauck said it's unfair to only blame oil trucks for the bridge's condition, "but it didn't help."
"It's not all the oil companies' fault -- it was already in bad shape and the oil companies just speeded up the process," he said.
"This bridge has got to be replaced, and without this grant, the county would not have the money to do that," Hauck said.
Larson holds meetings across the state each year to hear local governments pitch their projects. He personally reviews each request and drives every road that a county claims was damaged by oil traffic.
Some of the money also goes to drug enforcement, fire departments and ambulance services in oil-producing counties.
Funding for the grants is appropriated by the state Legislature. It may not exceed $5 million per biennium, Larson said.
The limit goes up to $6 million during the 2007-2009 biennium, he said.
The grant program has doled out more than $58 million since it was started in 1982, Larson said.