Excerpts from recent North Dakota editorials

7/31/2013 9:45 AM
By Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, July 29, 2013

Bring Highway 85 up to speed

Cautious incremental progress has been made over the years on creating the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway. In North Dakota that would mean making Highway 85 from the South Dakota border north to Canada a four-lane highway. It would be a step toward finishing a visionary Ports-to-Plains road system which would upgrade north-south commercial traffic from Texas through North Dakota.

Planning and work on the TR Expressway needs to pick up speed.

The need for better highway transportation in western North Dakota and South Dakota is now. The development of the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota and eastern Montana has put tremendous stress on highways in the region.

The oil development has meant greatly increased north-south traffic as pipe, machinery, fracking sand and other oil-field material and supplies pour into the Bakken. Meanwhile, oil has flowed to out-of-state markets in anyway it can. Truck traffic on two-lane Highway 85 runs 24 hours a day. It's intense. Businesses and people needing to be on the road find traffic can be intense. An improved TR Expressway would make traffic safer and help business and industry immensely.

The good thing is much of the planning has already been completed. However, there remain important issues to be addressed, in particular, how the reconstructed Highway 85 will skirt the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park service has expressed concern about the movement of wildlife along the Little Missouri River near the park — four lanes being more of an obstacle than two lanes.

Cal Klewin, the Dickinson-based Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association executive director, notes that in other parts of the country the park service and highway engineers have resolved similar problems, and that he expects the same here. We think he's right.

But we also think that it's important to solve those problems sooner rather than later. There's a tremendous need for improvements in the ground transportation system in western North Dakota. And that need is now

Officials, engineers and interested members of the public need to push to resolve a multitude of small and large conflicts before work can begin improving Highway 85.

Reaching the goal of U.S. energy independence will require the infrastructure to pull it off, and that includes an efficient and well-maintained transportation system, with an improved Highway 85. It's part of the price of doing business in western North Dakota.

___

The Forum, Fargo, July 30, 2013

A steady hand at higher ed

The selection of Larry Skogen to serve as interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System is one of the wiser moves made by the state Board of Higher Education. The Bismarck State College president took the job after discredited Chancellor Hamid Shirvani was sent down the road by the board. Shirvani's tenure was distinguished by more controversy and dysfunction than had ever afflicted the university system.

Skogen is a steady hand. His experience as a campus president has been invaluable. His understanding of the other campuses, the state as a whole, and the Legislature has been pivotal in his efforts to stabilize the system. Respected by presidents of the schools, Skogen, in a relatively short time, tamped down the upset left in Shirvani's wake, and in the process took the system off the front pages and airwaves. The breathing room he has provided for the system is crucial as the board embarks on a search for a new chancellor.

By his choice, Skogen is a short-timer in the job. But rather than rest comfortably as a run-in-place caretaker, he has been active and effective in restoring trust among system staff, campus administrators and board members. For example, he could have declined to redo Shirvani's inaccurate and mean-spirited draft evaluations of the presidents. Instead, Skogen met with presidents most affected by Shirvani's work, and after discussions with them revised the evaluations to fairly reflect the presidents' job performances.

That single example of collaboration (among others) is in contrast to the autocratic behavior of the ousted chancellor. Shirvani apparently believed he could use his authority to conduct vendettas against presidents who dared to challenge him. And it appeared he was supported in that flawed notion by a gaggle of sycophants in the Legislature.

Thus far, Skogen has done excellent work for the university system and the individual campuses. It's no easy task because fallout from the board's self-made mess during the past year has not yet dissipated. But he's off to a good start. He's repairing the system's foundation and restoring confidence in its leadership. At this point, North Dakotans can't ask for more than that.

___

Minot Daily News, Minot, July 30, 2013

Fair sets attendance record

Planning for the 2014 North Dakota State Fair is already underway, but there is time to pause and reflect on the success of the 2013 event.

The 2013 fair set an attendance record, with 320,485 people coming through gates, up from the previous record of 310,889 people set in 2012. Fair officials also noted that grandstand attendance did well, with the top draws being Toby Keith (14,142 tickets), Tim McGraw (13,074) and Journey (9,796). The competitive exhibits also brought thousands of entrants, as did auto racing events and rodeos.

The fair also benefited from good weather. The McGraw concert was delayed by rain, but the cooler than usual temperatures made spending a day at the fairgrounds easier than typical hot July temperatures.

The 2013 fair's attendance record shows that the event continues to be popular around the state and around the region. Now the challenge for the State Fair staff is to keep the fair fresh and new every year, while maintaining the event's links to its roots. It's a big task, one that fair officials are no doubt already working on for the 2014 fair.

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Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, July 31, 2013

Petty dispute obscures Keystone's real appeal

It's probably not a good idea to get involved in a political squabble involving the president, a cabinet secretary and a member of the U.S. Senate.

But we're going to do it anyway.

Because - in this case - the senator is incontrovertibly correct.

Besides, he's North Dakota's own John Hoeven.

So let's see: What could these political figures be arguing about?

Yes! Of course! It's the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Again.

The immediate issue is pretty arcane. It involves the number of jobs the project would create. President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew were on the TV talk show circuit over the weekend, generally disparaging the pipeline's job-creating potential. The president suggested the total number of jobs, during construction of the pipeline, would be 2,000. In operation, he said, "We're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs."

This is pretty close to ludicrous.

Of course, fairness dictates that we point out that Republican proponents of the project have sometimes provided job projects that are grotesquely inflated.

Hoeven avoided these pitfalls by turning to the estimates by the experts that are laid out in the U.S. State Department's Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. That document, dated March 1, 2013, said the project "would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a one-to-two year construction period (of which approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities)."

All this is included in a press release Hoeven issued Monday.

What's the state department doing making these estimates?

It's the state department that must approve a crossing of the international border for the pipeline, which would bring crude oil from Alberta to refineries in the United States. The Obama administration had promised a decision on the crossing in 2011, but delayed it until after the 2012 election. The stated reason was to give officials in Nebraska time to review the project's impact on sensitive groundwater resources.

Nebraska has since been satisfied.

But the project still languishes.

This latest dust-up is discouraging - and not relevant to the real reason to build the pipeline.

It doesn't really matter how many jobs might be created. The Keystone XL project will help make North America energy independent. The savings in worldwide woe - military, economic and environmental — would be considerable, and so would the economic impact of real energy independence.

Nor would foregoing the Keystone project lessen the impacts on the environment. The United States is not the only potential customer for Canadian oil, and the Canadian government has indicated it will sell the stuff in Asia if Americans don't want it.

So the exploitation of the tar sands would continue and the world would be exposed to the danger of oil spills at sea and more pollution in countries where environmental regulation is less advanced than it is here.

And continental energy independence would be delayed.

The argument about Keystone should concentrate on these points - and when it does, the advantages of the project will be obvious.


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