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Special meeting
District 1 board considering fundraisers to pay for school improvements

On Tuesday, June 25, board members of Williston Public School District No. 1 held a building and grounds committee meeting to discuss fundraising efforts to improve the district’s schools.

At the meeting, board President Joanna Baltes reported that her initial proposal to the Williston Coyote Foundation was well received.

“They’re really excited about our proposal that we laid out at our last board meeting,” Baltes said. “We wanted to make sure they were on board with what we wanted to do because we know we’re going to have to do some fundraising. It was great, they loved the presentation.”

The board has been considering ways to deal with increasing enrollment and overcrowding after two attempted to pass a $60 million bond to pay for two 600-student elementary schools and an addition to Williston High School.

A recent grant from the state will be used to pay for part of a small addition to the common area of WHS.

Last year, with an enrollment of more than 4,350 students, nearly every building in the district was at or over capacity. Projections have put enrollment for next school year at more than 4,600.

Baltes indicated the target dollar amount for a successful fundraiser to be between $3 million and $5 million. Moving forward, Baltes also mentioned mid-August as a possible deadline in order to secure any commitments which can help finalize a project proposal to the Coyote Foundation.

“If we can spend the next couple of weeks pushing this proposal, and showing them a presentation, by the middle of August, we want to be able to show as a board that we feel comfortable we have enough commitments for the project going forward,” Baltes continued.

4-H fun at the Upper Missouri Valley Fair

The Upper Missouri Fairgrounds will be filled with 4-Hers over the next few days, as young people show off their static exhibits and prepare their animals for judging and the annual livestock sale.

The schedule for 4-H events for the rest of the week is:

Thursday, June 27

9 a.m.: Judging swine, showmanship will be first sheep and goats, showmanship will follow those classes (Bowmen Building)

10 a.m. to 10 p.m.: 4-H Exhibits open to public Multi-Purpose Building

3 p.m.: Kiddie Parade — Judge beef animals, beginning with breeding, then market, Showmanship to follow (Bowmen Building)

7 p.m.: 4-H Family Appreciation picnic (Bowmen Building)

Friday, June 28

9 a.m.: Supreme Showmanship — Bowmen Building

10 a.m. to 10 p.m.: 4-H Exhibits open to public — Multi-Purpose Building

4 p.m.: Buyer’s Social (Bowmen Building)

4:45 p.m.: Bowmen building open to public

5 p.m.: Market Animal Sale (Bowmen Building) Buyer Appreciation Picnic — After completion of the sale

Saturday, June 29

10 a.m. to 10 p.m.: 4-H exhibits open to public — Multi-Purpose Building

4 p.m.: Farewell Pizza party (open to all 4-H members) Awards and Announcements

5 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Official Animal Checkout

Sunday, June 30

1 p.m.: Dog Show, Western Star Barn

Project shows perennial's power to undo damage from pipeline installation in the Bakken

Radishes were popping out above the soil line along a pipeline corridor on the Shane Hodenfield farm, a clear sign of terrible soil compaction.

A durum crop the year before had yielded only single digits — or even nothing at all — and did so again even after Hodenfield’s cover crop attempt.

That’s when the grower, who farms north of Ray, contacted cropping specialist Dr. Clair Keene with Williston Research Extension Center, to get guidance on what he could plant there that would make the area productive again.

With Keene’s help, a large-scale demonstration was set up using four different mixes of alfalfa and grass, to see how the different combinations would perform both along the pipeline and in an undisturbed area. While not a replicated trial, the project is nonetheless instructive when it comes to pipeline reclamation and was the site of a field day, Thursday, June 20.

The combinations seeded at the site in 2018 were as follows:

• Rugged alfalfa+ meadow brome+ pubescent wheatgrass,

• Rugged alfalfa+ AC Saltlander hybrid wheatgrass,

• AFX457 alfalfa + meadow brome + pubescent wheatgrass,

• AFX 457 alfalfa + AC Saltlander hybrid wheatgrass.

Keene recommended perennials for the reclamation, because they provide continuous soil cover and deep roots to help cycle nutrients and improve soil structure.

“Perennial roots, and alfalfa especially, get really deep in the soil,” she told the Williston Herald. “It adds carbon in the soil and it’s holding that soil in place year round. It’s there fall and winter protecting the soil against erosion. And because it starts growing as soon as the snow melts and is warm enough, it can compete with the weeds.”

She also discussed how to prioritize soil improvement over forage production during the Field Day, by not cutting the stand as frequently.

“In northwest North Dakota, I’d expect that to be two cuttings per year after the establishment year, but it may only be 1 cutting if we get dry,” Keene said.

Soil health specialist Keith Brown also presented during the field day, and demonstrated how water infiltration can be used to gauge how a reclamation is going.

In the demonstration, the undisturbed soil absorbed an inch of water in less than 10 minutes, while the pipeline took more than two hours.

Dryland research specialist Meredith Miller talked about an ongoing pipeline reclamation project at Williston Research Extension Center. Compaction there is being monitored over time with a cone penetrometer.

The results so far indicate the roadway used during the pipeline installation is a more challenging area for subsequent crop production than the pipeline itself, due to compaction.

Keene doesn’t have funding for a study of the pipeline corridor, but does plan to keep sampling the biomass, to see how the forages are doing.

“There would be a lot of room to learn about how the soil is changing over time, if we had funding,” Keene said. “I have not been doing any measurements on compaction or increases to soil organic matter or changes to pH. But there are a lot of things that we do need to know about how the soil changes under the perennials and how quickly it can happen in a pipeline situation.”

A question Keene would particularly like to be able to answer, and that she hears often from growers, is how long before such corridors can be farmed productively again.

“We know it will take a while, but we don’t know how quickly it will change,” Keene said. “It definitely merits further investigation.”

Dryness hampering wheat quality in some areas of the region

Quality ratings for North Dakota and Montana wheat are showing a slight downward trend in the latest reports from the USDA, pinched by dry conditions in pockets of the region.

Corn and soybeans, meanwhile, are still playing catch up in North Dakota, with 95 percent and 92 percent of those two crops emerged, respectively. That’s 3 percent behind five-year averages, but these figures do not reflect unplanted acres. Those are not expected until Friday from USDA.

In Montana, 87 percent of the corn is out of the ground, well behind last year’s 94 percent and the five-year average, 95 percent. Soybeans are not listed in Montana’s report.

Crop conditions reported by USDA for North Dakota:

• Spring wheat condition is 75 good and 7 excellent, down from slightly from last week’s 75 good and 8 excellent.

• Durum wheat is 71 good and 4 excellent, down from 77 good and 8 excellent last week.

• Winter wheat is 69 good and 7 excellent, down from 72 good and 8 excellent last week.

• Corn is 68 good and 5 excellent, down from 73 good and 7 excellent last week.

Montana crop conditions showed similar trends:

• Spring wheat was 50 good and 5 excellent, down from 65 but up one over 4 percent respectively;

• Durum wheat was 37 good and 4 excellent, down from 46 and 4 percent respectively;

• Winter wheat was 49 good and 22 excellent, down from 61 good but up over 18 percent respectively.

• Corn is rated 69 good and 8 excellent, down from 71 and 8 respectively.

Some rain has fallen in dry areas of the MonDak region since the USDA released its crop progress report. That should help alleviate the situation. However, more timely rains will be needed, particularly as temperatures are expected to continue rising and could reach the lower 90s late next week.

“The north was well below average in terms of precipitation,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Megan Jones said. “It will take more than a weekend of good rain to make up for that, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”

Most of the region’s crops are about 10 days behind schedule. Rising temperatures should help them catch up in development — as long as rains continue to be timely.

Williston’s total rainfall for the month of June is 1.64 inches, much of which has come in the past week. June’s total is more usually 2.52 by this time in June.

Year-to-date precipitation for Williston is 5.41 inches, also well below the average 6.69 inches for this time of year.

Rain storms are forecast for both northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota area, which could help catch things back up for those areas that were dry.

Jones did not have an estimate for how much rain the storms might bring, saying that they are likely to be spotty. That could mean a heavy downpour in some areas and nothing at all in others.

The forecast, however, is calling for scattered thunderstorms through Friday and into Saturday morning across the region. That means most areas should get something.

FAA gives nod to fly drones over people in ND

BISMARCK — Drone aircraft can now be flown over people during safety testing in North Dakota, thanks to a four-year waiver granted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation announced Tuesday, June 25, that it had been granted permission to operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems over people — a first for a North Dakota agency.

The drones being used are equipped with ParaZero SafeAir parachute recovery systems.

The FAA made the approval for the state’s UAS Integration Pilot Program. The program is helping the FAA create safety and security rules for UAS operations throughout the country.

The DOT and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks are working together with partners and stakeholders to make drone operations more safe and efficient, while finding more opportunities for growth.

Among the potential uses for drone aircraft are inspections of pipelines and other infrastructure, crash reconstruction and to save lives in rural areas using their broad search capabilities.

The Northern Plains UAS Test Site is one of seven such sites in the nation.

Gov. Doug Burgum called the FAA’s decision “fantastic news for North Dakota.”