With most of the state in extreme or severe drought based on the U.S. Drought Monitor, Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a statewide disaster, and the State Water Commission has reactivated the Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance program.
Conditions across North Dakota have been extremely dry, sparking wildfires that have burned thousands of acres at locations north of Williston, in both north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, as well as in the Little Missouri National Grasslands, and, overnight, near Trenton.
Portions of the park and the grasslands remain closed due to firefighting efforts, and fire prevention orders there and in the Williston Shooting Site. The fire in the Horse Pasture was listed as 75 percent contained as of Friday morning.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map, meanwhile, shows 70 percent of North Dakota in the extreme drought category, up 47 percent from last week. The remainder is in severe or moderate drought.
Topsoil in North Dakota is 92 percent short or very short of moisture, based on the latest report from the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. Eighty-two percent of subsoil is short or very short, and hay supplies were rated 46 percent short or very short. Stock water is at 71 percent short or very short.
“For the second time in five years, North Dakota ranchers are facing widespread, extreme drought conditions that threaten their herds and livelihoods,” Burgum said. “As part of our whole-of-government approach to drought response, today’s action by the State Water Commission provides relief to help livestock producers manage these hardships and invests in infrastructure that allows them to remain resilient against future droughts.”
The Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program provides eligible livestock producers with a 50 percent cost-share of up to $4,500 for things like new water wells, rural water system connections, pipeline extensions, and pasture taps, as well as associated works, labor and materials. Each applicant is limited to three projects.
Livestock producers iin counties affected by extreme drought as listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor and in adjacent counties will be eligible for the program. Visit www.swc.nd.gov for more details on how to apply, or contact the State Water Commission at 701-328-4989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program was last used in 2017, when it supported more than 500 water projects, with a total cost share of $1.5 million. The program will use the remaining $557,277 balance from the 2017 program to support this year’s reactivation.
“The Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program has been invaluable in the past for livestock producers facing water shortages,” North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “Reopening the program will again help producers as we navigate this season of drought.”
Drought conditions are expected to persist through the weekend, according to the forecasts from the National Weather Service, and a wind advisory was in effect Friday. There is a chance for rain and snow beginning Saturday night and continuing through Monday based on the seven-day forecast, with temperatures ranging from 68 degrees to as low as 25 degrees.
Meanwhile, North Dakota State University is offering a monthly webinar series to help ranchers manage the drought.
The webinars are 1 p.m. on Thursdays starting April 29, and will cover a range of drought “triggers,” to help producers plan ahead to make timely decisions.
To register for the webinar, visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/drought/navigating-drought-webinars.