Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - January 7, 2024

Burgum declares statewide emergency for infrastructure damage caused by severe ice storm

Gov. Doug Burgum declared a statewide emergency for widespread utility infrastructure damage caused by a severe winter ice storm that left over 20,000 North Dakotans without electricity.

Burgum plans to request a presidential disaster declaration for the event to unlock federal assistance to help pay for eligible response costs and infrastructure repairs, including hundreds of downed utility poles after the Christmas storm brought a combination of freezing rain and wind.

The emergency declaration encompasses the three-day event Dec. 25-27 that caused the National Weather Service to issue its first ice storm warning in North Dakota since 2016. Freezing rain coated power lines and poles with ice, while winds toppled over 1,400 poles and snapped power lines, causing millions of dollars in damage.

The storm forced many businesses to close or delay services, closed portions of I-29 and I-94 and made city streets and rural roads impassable.

“We’re deeply grateful for the tireless efforts of local linemen and crews from across the state helping to restore power, as well as for the first responders, emergency management teams, road crews, health care workers and all others working to keep citizens safe during this extraordinary event,” Burgum said. “Our state agencies continue to support local response efforts as we prepare to seek a federal disaster declaration and assistance.”

The statewide emergency declaration directs state agencies to provide response resources and capabilities if needed to support local and tribal governments. It also sets the stage for requesting a presidential disaster declaration, which if granted would unlock FEMA public assistance to help repair damaged utilities and other infrastructure.

State agencies including the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) supported local jurisdictions throughout the event by identifying needs and assisting with resource coordination. They also worked closely with the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) and investor-owned utilities to ensure the most efficient restoration of power possible.

“We appreciate the communication and coordination from NDDES, the Governor’s Office and local officials, and are especially grateful for the patience and understanding from electric cooperative members as our dedicated electric cooperative employees work to safely restore power,” said Josh Kramer, executive vice president and general manager for NDAREC.

ND Parks & Recreation enhances services and features with new reservation system

New reservation system will go live on Jan. 10

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) has partnered with US eDirect to provide a new online reservation system and point-of-sale platform. These enhanced services and features will improve and streamline the customer experience for the more than one million annual visitors to North Dakota’s state parks.

From Jan. 1 through Jan. 9, the current reservation system will be unavailable to the public as NDPRD transfers data to the new systems. Reservations previously made for 2024 will transfer at this time. Daily and annual permits, campsites and cabins will be available to guests only if they pay in cash or check at the park, or NDPRD’s central office in Bismarck. Parks will be unable to conduct credit card transactions for these services, and gift cards will not be available for purchase or use during this time.

Once the new reservation site and point-of-sale platform is live on Jan. 10, advance reservations will resume and visitors will enjoy a more intuitive, mobile-friendly system with added functionality. To get started, users will need to create an account, which will allow them to save their favorite sites.

Some key improvements include:

  • Interactive maps for better campground understanding and site selection.
  • Improved search functionality and expanded availability grid for campsites and cabins.
  • New self-service options such as self-check-in and the ability to move or cancel a reservation online.
  • Updated waitlist alerts for site availability.
  • Campsite photos and 360-degree views of cabin interiors.
  • Faster online and in-person transactions for a smoother experience.
  • Option to buy digital gift cards.
“We appreciate our visitors’ patience as we transition to this new and improved system,” said ND Parks and Recreation Director Cody Schulz. “This is a very exciting time for visitors to our state parks as we strive to create a more user-friendly reservation experience and utilize the latest technology to streamline their visits.”

North Dakota named 'Best State to Start a Business' for second straight year by Forbes

For a second straight year, Forbes and Forbes Advisor have ranked North Dakota at the top of the 'Best State to Start a Business' list.

To rank the best states to start a business in 2024, Forbes Advisor analyzed 18 key metrics across five categories. Forbes' explanation of North Dakota receiving the highest ranking included its low barrier to entry, stable tax and regulatory environment and business survival rate.

"North Dakota holds the top position from 2023 and remains the best state for starting a business in 2024," Forbes Advisor stated. "Its business environment is notably welcoming, with a formation fee of just $135, making the entry barrier for new businesses relatively low. This fee is an important consideration for entrepreneurs who are mindful of initial expenses. The state’s business survival rate, sitting at a healthy 77%, reflects a supportive and resilient environment where businesses have a better chance of thriving.

"This state’s appeal is enhanced by a cost of living index at 0.94, lower than the national average, and a significant portion of its population, 64%, falls within the working-age range. These factors, along with its perfect scaled score of 100, highlight North Dakota’s comprehensive suitability for new businesses, combining economic feasibility with a robust labor market. The state not only offers financial incentives but also provides a solid foundation for workforce development, ensuring businesses have access to a skilled and able workforce."

Burgum appoints Colby Braun to serve as Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation interim director

Gov. Burgum appointed Colby Braun to serve as interim director of the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR), effective Jan. 1. Previous DOCR Director Dave Krabbenhoft retired Dec. 31.

Braun has served as DOCR’s director of facility operations since August 2018. He previously served for nearly five years as warden of the North Dakota State Penitentiary, four years as DOCR’s director of transitional facilities and six years as warden of the Dakota Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. Braun earned a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson State University and began his career in corrections in 1997 as a correctional officer at the Southwest Multi-County Correction Center in Dickinson.

The process of selecting the next DOCR director is underway.

Burgum, Miller reflect on progress and milestones during administration’s seventh year

Gov. Burgum and Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller last month marked the completion of the Burgum administration’s seventh year, reflecting on a year of landmark legislation and milestones that included a record tax relief package, major investments in child care, workforce and infrastructure, and expanded support for law enforcement and the military.

“The historic progress made in the past year reminds us that even the most intractable and seemingly insurmountable challenges can be solved when we work together with the best interests of North Dakota’s incredible citizens at heart,” Burgum said. “These accomplishments are a testament to the innovation by our strong private sector, the hard work of our citizens and the relentless efforts by our state team members who strive every day to empower people, improve lives and inspire success.”

The administration’s seventh year began with Burgum appointing Governor’s Office Chief Operating Officer Tammy Miller to serve as lieutenant governor, succeeding former Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, who returned to the private sector.

Miller, the former CEO of Fargo-based electrical distributor Border States, officially assumed the role of lieutenant governor on Jan. 3, 2023 – the same day the 68th Legislative Assembly convened for a regular session that would see the passage of several landmark pieces of legislation.

Read the entire press release at the link below.