Gov. Doug Burgum today signed legislation that provides emergency grants to help cover extraordinary snow removal costs for local governments. The governor and other state leaders also highlighted how state agencies are collaborating with local entities and each other to prepare for and respond to this week’s major snowstorm and the high likelihood of spring flooding.
Senate Bill 2183 appropriates $20 million for emergency snow removal grants to eligible tribal governments, counties, cities and townships. Joining Burgum for a bill signing ceremony at the Bismarck District Office of the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) was the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Terry Wanzek of Jamestown, and co-sponsors Rep. Mike Brandenburg of Edgeley, Sen. Jerry Klein of Fessenden, Sen. Mark Weber of Casselton, Rep. Keith Kempenich of Bowman and Rep. Alisa Mitskog of Wahpeton.
“This record-setting winter has strained resources at every level of government,” said Burgum who urged support for the aid in his Jan. 3 State of the State address. “By expediting $20 million in emergency snow removal grants to qualifying city, county, township and tribal governments, we can relieve some of the burden on communities and local taxpayers and help ensure that while this winter was one for the record books, it doesn’t have to haunt their financial books.”
Senate Bill 2183 passed the Senate 46-0 and the House 91-1. The bill provides $15 million in funding for reimbursement grants to tribes, counties, cities and townships for snow removal costs from Oct. 1, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2022, and an additional $5 million for reimbursement for the period of Oct. 1, 2022, through April 30, 2023. Any unallocated funds from the first period can be made available as part of the second period. The bill will reimburse up to 60% of costs exceeding 150% of the average of four of the last five years’ snow removal costs.
Nearly all of North Dakota except for the northwest corner was under a blizzard warning from this morning through Wednesday night, with total snow accumulations of 8 to 17 inches and wind gusts of up to 55 mph forecast for the Bismarck area, with higher snow totals to the east. Heading into this week, Bismarck was only 6.3 inches short of its record seasonal snowfall total of 101.3 inches set in the winter of 1996-97.
“This has been trying on our patience, our resiliency, our fortitude and our budgets,” Wanzek said. “I have 100% faith in the spirit of North Dakota citizens to be able to pull through this tough winter. And while we as leaders have little influence over controlling Mother Nature, we do have some ability to provide financial relief for their burgeoning budgets.”
“As we came into Bismarck back in November, we knew we had problems. We knew that the snow levels were significant and we were going to have what looked like a tough winter – and we did, and we have, and it isn’t over yet,” Brandenburg said. “And as chairman of Nora Township, I really want to tell you that the people out there in the townships and the cities and counties, they need this. They really need his help.”
The Department of Emergency Services will be sending out application forms through the North Dakota League of Cities, North Dakota Association of Counties and each county’s Emergency Manager by the end of the week. All funds will be disbursed by June 30, state Homeland Security Division Director Darin Hanson said.
State leaders including Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, director of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services; North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) Director Ron Henke; Col. Brandon Solberg, superintendent of the North Dakota Highway Patrol; and North Dakota Department of Water Resources Director Andrea Travnicek, described how state agencies have collaborated with local officials and each other to prepare for this week’s storm and subsequent flooding, including pre-positioning personnel and equipment in the hardest hit areas.
“We are synched, we’re coordinated and we’ll be ready to go,” Dohrmann said.
Officials urged motorists to be patient, check the ND Roads app for road conditions, heed no travel advisories and give snow plows room to operate. Residents were reminded to have their homes stocked with food, water and medicine; monitor local weather and news and have a battery-powered radio in case of power outages; check gas meters and furnace vents to make sure they’re clear of snow; and take the time to check on their neighbors. Burgum and others also expressed gratitude for the tireless work of snowplow crews, law enforcement, first responders, radio dispatchers, emergency management personnel and others.
Video of today’s press conference and bill signing can be found on the governor’s Facebook page.