Statewide drought has county roads re-surfacing — but having these routes again comes with a catch

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We continue our coverage on the drought’s impact on the state.

We’ve told you about how ranchers and farmers are feeling the effects. But this dry weather has some roads and farmland coming out of the water for the first time in a while.

The dry weather has sloughs drying up and county roads re-surfacing.

Some farmers are also now able to access parts of their farmland that they haven’t been able to get into.

“That’s a pretty rosy picture to paint for a drought situation. We didn’t want to gain those things back with a drought, you know? We wanted to gain them back with some normal precipitation and normal rainfall–whatever that may be. I think we’ve forgotten what ‘normal’ is,” said Daryl Lies, president of ND Farm Bureau.

Having access to these routes again seems beneficial to these communities — but there’s a catch.

“Construction of roads is very expensive,” said Dana Larsen, Ward County engineer.

One of the challenges some townships face is a limited budget.

“Sometimes they just can’t do a complete repair like they need to, and so, you’ll see farmers stepping up. You’ll see farmers taking their equipment out there and actually helping repair the roads and make them passable again,” Lies said.

“You can still spend quite a bit of money on repairing and fixing roads, especially when mother nature can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time,” Larsen added.

Repairing and stabilizing these roads can cost tens of thousands or even millions of dollars per mile.

Some townships may have only $10,000 in their total budget for the entire year for road maintenance.

“To go and spend $100,000 to do a grade raise, that’s their entire budget or five years’ worth of budget,” Larsen said.

Another factor is the water could come back and wash away all of the repairs.

“If there’s ever been water there before, there’s a strong possibility there will be water there again,” Larsen added.

And the road’s integrity is also a factor these communities are having to look at before spending money.

“A lot of these roads, they were built, they just basically took the material that was right there and they put it in the middle of the roadway. Then we came along and improved the road and put new material on top of that. But, the core of the road has still got this old material that was basically was right there. It may not be the best material in most cases. So, you have to figure out how to bridge that material to carry the loads that we carry today,” Larsen said.

With rain in the forecast, it’s hoped that the currently dry and accessible roads will stay passable even after the rain.

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