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General News

Reclamation work continuing at Gascoyne Mine

Jul 11, 2019

The mining stopped in the mid-90s.

But the reclamation work goes on.

Knife River Coal continues to work on reclaiming the Gascoyne Mine in southwestern North Dakota. It has one permitted parcel left to reclaim.

"This has taken decades," said Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann, who holds the PSC's reclamation portfolio. "While some of the features were tiny, they weren't ignored."

Christmann said the company needed to make sure the reclamation was done correctly, even though mining operations had ceased -- and no revenue was coming in.

PSC looking at Dakota Access capacity plans

Jul 11, 2019
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The developers of the Dakota Access Pipeline are taking the next step in expanding the pipeline’s capacity.

The current capacity is 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

Energy Transfer Partners has now applied to the North Dakota Public Service Commission to site a new pumping station in Emmons County, west of Linton.

"It will consist of five 6,000 horsepower electric motors and pumps," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. "It will allow for pipeline transportation of up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day.

North Dakota’s Insurance Department has fined Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota $125,000 after a 16-month “market conduct exam” found it had improperly denied certain claims and failed to report some insurance fraud.

Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said the focus was on mental health and substance abuse claims. He said a lot of the problems came in disagreements over the level of treatment.

"Your doctor says, 'You need 10 days of in-patient treatment,' and Blue Cross may come back and say, 'No, you need three," Godfread said.

Durum acreage down in ND

Jul 10, 2019

North Dakota producers have planted a lot less durum this year.

The North Dakota Wheat Commission reports durum acres fell to 750,000 – the lowest since 2011.

Wheat Commission marketing director Jim Peterson said it stands to reason.

"Typically, producers need $1 to $1.50 a bushel premium to grow durum over spring wheat," Peterson said. "That's primarily because of the quality risk."

Peterson said durum has a higher quality threshold to make milling quality.

"That just hasn't been there in the last couple of years," Peterson said.

BSC President Larry Skogen to retire in summer 2020

Jul 9, 2019

The president of Bismarck State College will retire June 30th, 2020.

Larry Skogen has served as BSC’s leader for 12 years. Skogen said he’s leaving on a “high note” – after what he described as a “wonderful” Legislative session.

"The support we got for our health sciences program, the polytechnic initiative, pay raises for our employees -- all of this was just really, really wonderful," Skogen said in an interview with Prairie Public.

What also drove his decision -- the campus is beginning a strategic planning effort.

30th anniversary of the restored Custer House

Jul 8, 2019
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A ceremony was held this weekend at Ft. Lincoln State Park south of Mandan, marking the 30th anniversary of the opening of the restored Custer House.

That’s where 7th Cavalry commander Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his wife stayed after he was assigned to Ft. Abraham Lincoln – and before he was killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, near modern-day Hardin, Montana.

Just this week – the grain elevator licensing and inspection program transferred from the Public Service Commission to the state Agriculture Department.

And already, the Ag department is dealing with an elevator insolvency.

Commissioner Doug Goehring said JM Grain of Garrison has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and his office will be asking a court to name it the trustee.

A member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission is raising some questions concerning a plea deal federal prosecutors reached with a grain trader from Leeds, who investigators allege was running his grain business like a Ponzi scheme.

Under the deal, 22 year old Hunter Hanson will plead guilty to federal charges of money laundering and wire fraud. He operated grain elevators in Tunbridge and Rohrville, and had a roving grain buyer’s license.

The deal said Hanson will forfeit his assets, and he will pay restitution of $11.4 million, owed to creditors.

In the near future, the campus at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks will have a different look – and a different feel.

The University has been tearing down some buildings and repurposing others – and will build a new student union. UND vice president for finance and operations Jed Shivers said the University is really trying to consolidate its real estate.

"In my mind, the whole goal is to bring students -- and really, our community -- back on to the campus," Shivers said.

Shivers said the plan is to create a densser, urban-style campus.

UND given $1M atmospheric research grant

Jul 2, 2019

The University of North Dakota has been awarded a $1 million contract to conduct research on behalf of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in an effort to improve the understanding of thunderstorms.

David Delene is an associate research professor of atmospheric sciences at UND. He says the Cape Experiment 2019 is a partnership between UND, the US Navy and Weather Modification International in Fargo. It will combine aircraft measurements and observations with the Navy's Mid-Course Doppler Radar, or MCR, to develop better cloud models.