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North Dakota Eyes Funding for Shale Boom

Infrastructure, water and housing upgrades remain priorities in western North Dakota to keep up with the continuing robust growth in oil and gas development, according to a report released Tuesday by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

The report, "Tour Findings and State Response," is based on a series of meetings in January with state and local representatives. It details the need to spend $806.2 million more through the 2012 fiscal year on energy and road infrastructure, water infrastructure and supplies, and housing. Nearly half that amount -- $391 million -- was spent through the end of January, mostly for infrastructure.

Ultimately, North Dakota is prepared to spend up to $1.2 billion to meet local needs in the western region, Dalrymple said.

While the report outlines the needs expressed by local and community leaders, Dalrymple said the state is providing "a tremendous amount" of funding and resources throughout the western part of the state, where energy development is in high gear.

A lot of the remaining infrastructure needs were outlined previously in the 2010 Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study and subsequent state legislative action, which resulted in more than 600 miles of road improvements in 17 counties last year, the report noted. "The state's road improvement plan will be updated again this year and every two years thereafter," said a spokesperson for the governor.

Transportation would take most of the spending, given that 70% of the state's crude production is transported by truck. More than $425 million is still to be spent on state Department of Transportation road programs, special state highway maintenance, and county/township local road reconstruction programs.

"Traffic volumes have greatly increased in western North Dakota, creating a number of areas where traffic congestion is significantly impacting communities," the report said. "[The state's] robust economy and growing population have created strong demand for housing throughout the state, but nowhere is the demand for affordable housing more acute than in the state's oil/gas-producing counties."

The report concluded that planning and coordination continue to be "a key" to allowing the state to keep up with the boom. The new energy impact coordinator is to address improving coordination among all of the various stakeholders; monitor the state oil development permitting processes to "ensure the best information is available [to the state]" regarding impacts; review the ongoing $247.2 million Oil/Gas Distribution Fund to determine if those resources could be "more effectively targeted"; and accelerate school building planning to accommodate rapid enrollment growth.

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