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County Denies Borehole Test Project

By Staff | Mar 8, 2016

At its regular meeting Tuesday morning, the Pierce County Board of County Commissioners gave a “no” vote on the proposed borehole test drilling project.

The board unanimously voted to send a letter, written by States’ Attorney Galen Mack, to the Energy & Environmental Research Center – one of the partners in the proposed project led by the Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute, along with Schlumberger (Texas) and Solexperts AG (Switzerland) – to cease consideration of state-owned land south of Rugby as a site for deep borehole testing.

The proposed project involved drilling an 8.5″ hole 16,000 feet deep into crystalline basement rock, and potentially drilling a 17″ hole. The U.S. Department of Energy sought data on whether borehole testing would be a feasible means to store nuclear waste or other applications.

The board originally passed a moratorium on deep drilling, with the exception of water wells. At a public meeting on Feb. 16, the proposed project was negatively received by members of the public. Two days later the county’s Planning & Zoning Board met and supported the moratorium passed by the Commission. The zoning board also received a petition from Pierce County resident Dallas Hager with 2,000 signatures against the proposed project.

On Tuesday, county residents and Ed Steadman, a representative from the EERC, were present to await action from the board on the project.

County resident Blaine Schmaltz said the commissioners should seek the support of state boards, including the N.D. Association of Counties.

County resident Steve Voeller questioned whether there was media investigation into the proposed project; who first knew about the project; and where the citizens’ outrage was.

“Who sold out our state, and for what price?” Voeller said.

Steadman said there was no ill intent from the parties involved in the project, and that the county was right to express concerns. Steadman also said that he would be “very surprised” if another site in North Dakota was to be looked at for the project.

Board chairman Dave Migler said a number of commissioners from other counties in the state expressed concerns about the project.

“We have nothing against the EERC, it’s the end result that scares us,” Migler said.


The board received a letter from Sally Holewa, state court administrator, notifying that the board is to make a decision by April 1, in accordance with Section 27-05.2-02 of the N.D. Century Code, regarding how the Clerk of Court office will be run in the 2017-19 biennium.

The letter said that Pierce County requires one full-time employee to provide clerk services and gave three options: 1. Have the clerk become a state employee; 2. Enter into funding agreement and be reimbursed for providing clerk services; or 3. Provide services at the county’s expense.

Currently the county operates under option 2 and receives a 1.04 percent reimbursement rate for providing clerk services. The board approved a motion to enter into a funding agreement for the 2017-19 biennium.


The board met with Joseph Pelt, executive director of the Rugby Job Development Authority, and voted to help fund a $25,000 feasibility study on bringing natural gas to the Rugby area.

The board met with Lyndsey Ulrickson and Jory Head, of the Souris Basin Planning Council, regarding a “housing rehab” pilot project the council wanted to do in Pierce County. The project would allow income homeowners to apply for funding from the council, through a USDA grant, to keep their homes in livable condition. The board approved a motion to support the project.

The board imposed load limit restrictions not to exceed 12,000 pounds per axle on county township roads. The board also imposed a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, with the exception of the 2.5 miles from Highway 3 Selz at 35 miles per hour, while load restrictions are in place.

The board approved a payment of $28,022.49 from the 2013 Disaster Fund to Meyer Township.

The board approved abatement applications for Calvary Evangelical Free Church and Carol Engelbrit. The board also approved abatements on parcels 01613-008 (section 25 Township 157-73) and 10409-000 (Lots 26-27, Block 2, Sikes 2nd Addition, City of Rugby), due to clerical error.

The board approved extending the permit for drilling on right of way for Sandpiper Pipeline until February 2017.

The board approved the resignation of Dr. Jeff Vaagen, county coroner, and to appoint Ken Reed, deputy coroner, to the position.

The board denied a request from Heart of America Correctional & Treatment Center Administrator Mike Graner to give correctional officers a 2 percent increase over recommendations in a 95 percent-market rate salary study.

The board approved the HACTC bills and financial statements, the February meeting minutes, bills, financial statements and treasurers checks.

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