This week had me driving to Bismarck for two birds with one stone; the ND Water Quality Monitoring Conference at BSC on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday along with sitting in on the Energy Development and Transmission Legislative Committee’s meeting on Thursday in the Capitol. Mother Nature cancelled the Tuesday portion, so they jammed it into Wednesday and half of Thursday. There were several presentations of interest to the Growers, one of them being from Scott Korom of Barr Engineering theorizing that the difference in the rock under the Red River Valley between the Minnesota side (mostly igneous), and the ND side (largely shale) has led to a difference in how those respective soils bind to pesticides and degrade nitrogen. The shale-dominated west side of the river accomplishes that binding and degrading to a much higher level. He was addressing ground water rather than surface water and the soil profile well under the crop level, but I thought it was something you might want to be aware of as there is bound to be some contribution from the ground water and deep soils moving upward, however incrementally.
Another was from Daron Stein of Source Molecular discussing how DNA analytical tools are the new gold standard in monitoring and can tell definitively the source of nutrient pollution. There were others detailing the study by the National Wetland Condition Assessment which is done every five years and how North Dakota’s Reference (read best of the best or benchmark) Wetlands are changing over time and at least two presentations discussing the finer points of fecal bacteria source investigation. If or when I find a link to the presentations I will put it in this blog.
Energy Development and Transmission Committee spent the next morning comparing state and Federal taxation of coal, oil and gas and wind. To my mind, the sparring between Coal and Wind that broke out last session continued with this meeting, seeking an apples to apples comparison to see which industry gets more favored treatment than the other. It was stated by the Lignite Council that such a simplified comparison is not possible because the energy sources are too different. That same presenter gave an analogy with wind being like a motorcycle which can be purchased new for under $10,000 but can only be utilized when the weather is favorable while coal is like the 4-wheel drive vehicle that is more expensive but can drive in almost all conditions.
Then the committee spent the afternoon listening to the counties of Dunn, McKenzie, Williams and Mountrail (these 4 produce 92 percent of ND oil) explain the impacts of the oil play. Law enforcement, roads and bridges were key points for all as they stressed the need for continued state help. Sitting near me were representatives of the Township Association, the Association of Counties and other organizations who are tracking where and why the money goes where it does. After that it was the designated Hub Cities, Dickinson, Minot and Williston – all of which the committee has visited in the last half year – pleading their case. The committee will have to decide if they are going to tweak the Hub formula which dispenses money in the coming months.