- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A North Dakota program aimed at helping resolve disputes over pipeline reclamation has fielded about two dozen requests for help so far.

The Legislature earlier this year created the pipeline restoration and reclamation oversight pilot program. It’s meant to help resolve disputes between pipeline companies and landowners or tenants.

Twenty-three requests had been filed as of the end of October, The Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1NB8Qy1 ). Williams County had the most with five, followed by Mountrail and Burke counties with four each, McKenzie County with three and Divide County with two. Bowman, Dunn, McLean, Mercer and Oliver counties had one each.

“We’re getting really good feedback. They’re recognizing the value of the program,” Agriculture Department Administrative Services Director Ken Junkert said. “I think there’s value here. The industry, they see it as a good approach to the problem.”

There are more than 20,000 miles of pipeline already crossing North Dakota and thousands more miles to be added in coming years, according to the Agriculture Department.

The North Dakota Farm Bureau earlier this year opposed the pilot program, calling it duplicative. Officials with the group declined comment to the Tribune.

North Dakota Farmers Union member advocacy director Kayla Pulvermacher said that group supports the program but that more time is needed to measure results.

“We’re still in support because there has to be something there for landowners,” Pulvermacher said. “So far, it seems to be that the companies have been willing to come to the table.”

The Legislature approved $400,000 for the program for the 2015-17 budget cycle. About $32,000 had been spent by the end of October on promotional costs and payments to five ombudsmen contracted by the Agriculture Department.

Whether the program is extended in the next biennium will be up to the governor when he crafts his proposed 2017-19 budget.

“It’ll definitely be on the table,” Junkert said, adding that the program results will speak for themselves.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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