BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Minot Daily News, Minot, Feb. 11, 2016
A whole plan for flood protection
This week's news that the Minot area was in line for an Army Corps of Engineers study for flood protection is another significant advancement for the region. Coming just weeks after announcement that Minot had been selected for a significant amount of National Disaster Resilience Contest funding, it has been a stellar period for the people of the community. This most recent news also bodes well for a future in which disastrous flooding such as in the past will be less of a threat.
Credit is due North Dakota's entire delegation, which worked across party lines, to get Minot's case to the correct authorities. Earlier this year, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told the Minot Daily News that he was virtually certain this would happen and he has followed through. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., was a tireless advocate as well. Finally, Minot's city leaders did an admirable job at telling Minot's story and relating the significance of this effort.
However, this is but the first of many steps. The study can take a lengthy period of time and it is just phase one of a complicated process to see real improvements in terms of flood protection. The timeline is uncertain, even if Minot can be assured that our voices in D.C. and in Bismarck continue their strong advocacy through the entire process.
There is one more factor to perhaps temper optimism. The flood in 2011 was a natural disaster, yes, but perhaps not unavoidable. The area very well might not have taken the damage that it did had there not also been human failure. At one level, or perhaps many levels, human failure contributed to the scope of damage — failure to communicate, failure of foresight and/or failure of leadership. This too needs to be taken into consideration.
No study, no funding, no plan can mitigate for human failure on this scale.
Last month, the Minot Daily News launched a monthly series having a look back five years to the month at the factors building that led to the 2011 flood. In July, MDN will feature a comprehensive look back, and also a look at what has changed and what risk remains.
The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Feb. 11, 2016
Basin's urea project a smart move
Being smart and innovative in business has kept the Great Plains Synfuels Plant operating since 1984. When the plant was built in the 1980s, experts from South Africa and other countries came to help in the construction. Now owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the plant manufactures natural gas from coal. It also supplies carbon dioxide to a carbon capture and storage project in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Today finds Basin involved in another project, the construction of a $500 million urea fertilizer plant adjacent to the synfuels plant north of Beulah. The urea plant will combine some of the carbon dioxide and ammonia created in that liquification process at the synfuels plant to make dry urea pellets used as fertilizer by farmers growing wheat, soybeans and corn.
The synfuels plant already produces anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, which is in demand across the country. The drawback to anhydrous ammonia is it can be potentially dangerous to handle. By producing both anhydrous ammonia and urea, Basin hopes to capture more of the fertilizer market. While coal is out of favor in many areas, the demand for safer fertilizer could help coal win favor in some quarters. It's worth noting that last year, three urea plants were in development in North Dakota; one by CHS Inc. at Spiritwood has been cancelled, while another, Northern Plains Nitrogen at Grand Forks, is still seeking investors, making the Basin project the only one headed toward production.
The urea plant means jobs for the area. During construction there will be 750 workers who will need a place to live, eat and relax. It's money for the community. When in operation — the goal is the urea will be available for 2017 spring planting — there will be 60 permanent jobs. Basin intends to produce 380,000 tons of urea, enough to supply the majority of the demand in North Dakota. The North Dakota State University Extension estimates annual urea use in the state is 450,000 tons.
The synfuels plant has an international reputation and has drawn visitors from Germany, China, Italy, Korea, Great Britain, Japan and other countries. If successful, the urea plant will be another boost to Basin's operations near Beulah. For an area that relies on coal for much of its economic livelihood, that's good news.