Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - March 3, 2024

State works with local, federal agencies to respond to Missouri River ice jam flooding

An ice jam causing minor flooding on the Missouri River in Bismarck-Mandan resulted in state agencies coordinating with local and federal partners on a whole-of-government response to prevent damage and risk to lives.

The major ice jam near Fox Island and the Heart River confluence south of Bismarck caused the Missouri River to rise rapidly Wednesday and Thursday, flooding low-lying areas along the shoreline. The river level exceeded minor flood stage of 14.5 feet at the Bismarck gauge near the Main Avenue bridge and crested at 15.43 feet at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Two North Dakota National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters dropped 116 buckets of water – each containing 5,000 pounds – onto the leading edge of the ice jam. Around 6 p.m., major swathes of ice began to loosen and successfully flow downriver.

State, local and federal officials including representatives of the Governor’s Office, Department of Emergency Services (DES), Department of Water Resources, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Transportation, North Dakota National Guard, National Weather Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Highway Patrol, and Burleigh and Morton counties collaborated to coordinate a response to the ice jam flooding.

“We are monitoring this situation closely and taking a whole-of-government approach to protecting lives and property on the Missouri River in Bismarck-Mandan,” Burgum said Thursday. “We appreciate the cooperation of our local, state and federal partners as we respond to this rapidly developing situation.”

Burgum, Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, director of DES and adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, and Water Resources Director Andrea Travnicek pressed Army Corps of Engineers officials to reduce flows from Garrison Dam upstream of the ice jam to help prevent further rises in the river level.

On Friday, state, federal and local agencies returned to monitoring mode as the Missouri River continued to flow.

Burgum testifies in trial seeking reimbursement from U.S. government for $38M in DAPL response costs

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave ‘tacit approval’ for protesters to use Corps land as base of operations for launching illegal activities

Gov. Burgum testified Monday in the trial over North Dakota’s claim that the federal government owes the state $38 million in damages incurred in the state’s emergency response to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests.

The state’s lawsuit contends that the U.S. government allowed thousands of protesters to engage in an unpermitted and illegal occupation of federal land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that spanned almost eight months during construction of DAPL in 2016 and 2017. From the Corps land, protesters launched often combative and violent protests, which North Dakota was left to deal with on its own, spending tens of millions of dollars to protect public safety and property and clean up the mess left behind by protesters on federal property.

“Since the beginning, we have taken the position that the federal government – not North Dakota taxpayers – should shoulder the burden of the enormous costs of law enforcement and other resources expended on the DAPL protests and cleanup,” Burgum said after he testified. “Instead of evicting protesters from federal lands, the U.S. government enabled and encouraged protesters to use Corps land as a home base to launch their often violent and illegal protests. As this trial is showing, the federal government knew it wasn’t following its own laws and policies but continued to play politics with the pipeline, turning a deaf ear to North Dakota’s pleas for help and enforcement. It’s time for the feds to pay up and make North Dakota whole.”

In total, North Dakota’s emergency response to the DAPL protests lasted over 230 days, involved 178 response agencies, and spanned Morton, Sioux, Burleigh and Emmons counties. During the protests, North Dakota law enforcement made 761 arrests, 709 of which were out-of-state residents. The cleanup of the DAPL camps required over 600 roll-off dumpsters for a total of 9.8 million pounds of garbage and hazardous materials.

After taking office Dec. 15, 2016, Burgum oversaw the state’s response to the protest through its conclusion. The protest camp on Corps land was cleared without loss of life on Feb. 23, 2017, following an emergency evacuation order issued by Burgum on Feb. 15.

“We were very concerned about the life safety issue, and of course we were trying to establish the rule of law in North Dakota,” Burgum testified Monday.

The prolonged protest was a “disaster” for North Dakota, Burgum testified, not only because local residents were living in fear of violence, vandalism and harassment by protesters, but also because of misinformation being spread on social media – harming the state’s reputation, tourism and the ability to attract capital and talent to North Dakota.

Rather than trying to remove protesters from the Corps land, the federal government allowed thousands of protesters to camp at the site near Cannon Ball and use it as a “base of operations” to carry out illegal activities, Burgum testified. This “tacit approval,” he noted, included the Corps publicly announcing it had granted a special use permit to allow protesters to remain on Corps land, even though no such permit was issued – a factual error the Corps failed to correct publicly.

The Corps’ permissive attitude toward the protesters was “shockingly confusing” because the agency has a reputation for intolerance toward any type of private activity on Corps-managed land, Burgum testified.

“They’re very protective of their property, and that’s why the protest camp was a shocking contrast to anything they’d ever done,” he said.

The main camp on Corps land was hijacked by out-of-state protesters and grew into an uncontrolled, “armed occupation camp” with its own armed security forces, Burgum noted. As a result of the illegal activities launched from the site, the state had to expend millions in law enforcement costs to protect lives and property, all while working with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others to resolve the protest peacefully and without loss of life.

Had the federal government taken action right away and denied protesters access to the Corps land, “it would have never scaled up the way it did,” Burgum said.

The trial before U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor is expected to conclude in mid-March.

Burgum, Miller attend events in Grand Forks

On Friday, Gov. Burgum and Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller spent time at various events throughout the community in Grand Forks.

Burgum started the day with a welcome at the North Dakota Petroleum Council annual meeting at the University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental Research Center. Miller also attended, meeting with members and touring the College of Engineering & Mines National Security Corridor and the Collaborative Energy Center at UND.

Burgum then met with community, city and private sector leaders at the site of the Grand Forks Public School's future Career Impact Academy, which will house classes for instruction and training in high-demand occupations such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace and uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), automotive services, building trades, computer science and information technology, culinary arts, engineering and robotics, health sciences and precision technologies.

Burgum and Miller also visited the Grand Forks Air Force Base, touring facilities and meeting with Airmen, as well as Grand Sky and Vantis, receiving updates on UAS projects and how Vantis investments are supporting Department of Defense operations.

Burgum and Miller completed the day at Ralph Engelstad Arena, where Burgum had the honor of dropping the puck prior to the start of the hockey game.

Miller delivers remarks, participates in roundtable discussions at State of the Region event in Bowman

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Miller attended the State of the Region - Region 8 meetings and tours in Bowman. The event raises awareness of the unique needs and challenges facing its communities, sparks productive dialogue among key stakeholders and decision-makers, and identifies actionable solutions that can drive positive change.

The State of the Region provided an update across key topics in the community, with highlights on enhancing infrastructure, CO2 production, tourism, health care needs, property taxes and additional rural community needs.

In her welcome, Miller highlighted the creation of the Office of Community Development & Rural Prosperity within the Department of Commerce, which builds upon the momentum of the Main Street Initiative to be more strategic and target the unique issues rural communities are facing.

The new office will network with community organizations, businesses, local governments and other state agencies to develop comprehensive, long-term strategies tailored to the specific needs of each community.

As part of the event, Miller also toured The Edge Activity Complex, which opened in February 2023 and is run by Bowman Parks and Recreation. The facility provides a space for community members to enjoy activities indoors such as pickleball, basketball, volleyball, climbing walls, an indoor playground and a trampoline park.

Applications being accepted for Governor’s Band/Orchestra Program and Choral Program

Gov. Burgum is encouraging school, community and church bands, orchestras and choirs across North Dakota to apply to serve as the Governor’s Official State Band/Orchestra Program and Choral Program for the 2024-2025 school year.

The Governor and First Lady will select the Governor’s Band/Orchestra Program and Governor’s Choral Program from the applications received based on musical talent, achievement and community involvement. The governor may invite the band/orchestra and chorus to perform at official state functions held throughout the year, including the State of the State Address.

Interested groups should submit an application, references and a musical recording to the Governor’s Office by 5 p.m. Thursday, March 28. The Governor’s Band/Orchestra Program and Governor’s Choral Program will be announced in April and may be invited to perform at the Capitol in May 2024 and at events throughout the 2024-2025 school year. Please complete the application and provide materials at governor.nd.gov/governors-chorus-and-bandorchestra-program-application.

SAVE THE DATE: Governor's Summit on Innovative Education on June 17 at Bismarck State College