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Townships awarded $5 million in energy impact grants

BISMARCK - Almost 50 townships in North Dakota will receive a total of $5 million in grants to fix damaged roads and address other impacts of oil and gas activity.

BISMARCK - Almost 50 townships in North Dakota will receive a total of $5 million in grants to fix damaged roads and address other impacts of oil and gas activity.

The state Land Board voted unanimously Wednesday to award a total of $6.1 million from the state's Oil and Gas Impact Grant Fund, with the bulk of it going to townships.

State Land Commissioner Lance Gaebe said his office received 230 applications totaling $47.5 million in January and February for this year's "general" grant round. Previous rounds have been targeted at specific categories such as schools, cities, law enforcement agencies and fire departments.

Gaebe said staffers put on 6,000 miles to interview applicants and gather information for scoring the requests.

"This was a pretty herculean task," he said.

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The Land Board had designated $4 million for the general grant round, but another $2.1 million was added from its unallocated contingency fund for this fiscal year.

Forty-nine townships will receive grants.

"I'd say by and large the focus is almost entirely on unsafe roads," Gaebe said.

Six counties also were awarded grants totaling $1.1 million.

The grants will help counties and townships complete 55 road projects. They also include $200,000 for expansion of the McKenzie County Sheriff's Department and $100,000 for expansion of the Mountrail County law enforcement center.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who chairs the five-member panel officially known as the Board of University and School Lands, said the grants targeted to townships' specific needs show the impact fund's true value.

"I'm sure to these townships, these amounts are a lifesaver," he said.

The 2013 Legislature appropriated $240 million in impact grant funding for the 2013-15 biennium.

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So far, the Land Board has awarded $133.5 million and pledged another $35 million in grants, Gaebe said. About $22.5 million of that has actually been paid out as reimbursements to political subdivisions that receive the grants.

"It just takes time to get some of these things done," he said.

The Land Board's other members are Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

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