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Bakken Briefings

McKenzie roads

McKenzie County needs to pave nearly 130 miles of roadway, County Commission Chairman Ron Anderson says. At roughly $1.5 million a mile, that’s a big job.

“McKenzie County has the highest number of traffic-related deaths for the second year in a row,” Anderson said. “We really need to spread some of the traffic out.”

All the county’s roads were made for much lighter traffic loads than they are carrying, he said.

County Public Works Director Suhail Kanwar said U.S. Highway 85, with upward of 20,000 vehicles a day passing through Alexander, gets the most dense use.

But many of those vehicles are entering and exiting connecting county roads, hauling heavy equipment and loads and causing damage to smaller roads — some gravel and some paved. He said the traffic the roadways are seeing is not what they were built to endure.

— McKenzie County Farmer, Watford City

Tioga strip mall

As the opening of a new Cash Wise grocery store approaches on Tioga’s north side, an adjacent strip mall also is taking shape.

Slated for occupancy in the strip mall are an Anytime Fitness franchise location, a China Express restaurant and a Cash Wise Liquor store, said Jay Moore of Oppidan Development.

Moore said that the 10,000-square-foot building will have about half its space devoted to the liquor store.

Another 3,000 square feet will house Anytime Fitness and about 2,000 feet will contain the China Express location.

Jason Blackburn and Sherry McLaughlin are the partners opening the Anytime Fitness location. They are already working on a location for the franchise in Stanley, but the Tioga location is actually expected to open first, Blackburn said.

Blackburn said the two also are looking at sites in Watford City and New Town, with an eye toward members having access to exercise at any of the locations.

— Tioga Tribune

Wind farm revised

An ambitious plan for a gargantuan wind farm in Ward, Burke and Mountrail counties is scaled back to nearly a third of the original blueprint, according to a spokesman who spearheaded efforts to secure leases.

Craig Swenson, the land procurement manager for Hartland Wind Farm LLC, said the wind energy industry as a whole has tapered off since production tax credits ended and it has changed the concept of what was to be one of the largest wind farms in the United States.

“We’re in a holding pattern and we’re in a great position to be holding,” Swenson said. “Wind tests are still going on.”

As a result, numerous leases on the original 137,000 acres that were signed weren’t renewed.

Instead, developers are concentrating on

50,000 acres, all in Ward County.

— The Kenmare News

Killdeer industry

A private lender from New Jersey has completed a $2.4 million loan to Mirriah Lender, LLC for a 96-acre industrial park in Killdeer.

Kennedy Funding, Englewood, N.J., approved the loan for Mirriah Business Park.

“The value of this property is, in a word, ‘oil,’” said Kevin Wolfer, CEO of Kennedy Funding.

The borrower acquired the property for $1.7 million in early 2013 after obtaining a zoning change from agricultural to commercial/industrial. Two of the park’s

25 lots already have been sold.

Wolfer said fast growth has resulted in a real estate shortage in all sectors, “and the Mirriah Business Park property is clearly poised to take advantage of that need.”

— Dunn County Record, Killdeer

New Town surges

New Town has grown 50 percent in the last four years and its population will double again by 2030, according to a new study commissioned by the city council.

“This will obviously have a lot of implications for how the council will have to plan both for growth and the impact on city services,” City Engineer Steve Ike told the council recently.

In February, the council contracted with the firm Ondracek and Bertsch for a study of growth potential.

New Town was founded in the 1950s after several towns were flooded by the filling of Lake Sakakawea. The city’s population had peaked at 1,568 in 1960 and remained under 1,400 from 1980 to 2000.

With the onset of the Bakken oil boom, the city grew to 1,925 in 2010, according to the U.S. census.

The study suggests the population is nearing 3,000 and will continue climbing.

“The good news is that a lot of the steps we are taking now should help us handle most of this growth,” Ike said.

— New Town News

Watford sales tax

Watford City voters this June will decide whether to increase the city’s 1 percent city sales tax by an additional one-half percent to help meet the growing needs of the community.

Watford City enacted its city sales tax in 1989, and since then has poured more than $5 million into projects like a playground, wellness center and the water park.

In addition, the fund has been used to assist in the expansion of the clubhouse at the golf course, bring more affordable housing to the community, aid in the development of Main Street, and assist in the development of more day care.

Officials say the increase in city sales tax is needed to help finance the new hospital and clinic facility and support emergency services.

— McKenzie County Farmer, Watford City

Pipeline workforce

Members of Tioga’s chamber and economic development council gathered recently for a presentation by Enbridge on work set to begin on the new Alliance Pipeline.

Enbridge’s Katie Haarsager said the Tioga area will see 250 to 300 pipeline contract workers by the end of the summer. The pipeline now has about

85 percent of the necessary easements obtained from landowners and construction is expected to be complete by 2016, she said.

The 610-mile line will start south of Tioga, mostly paralleling U.S. Highway 2, jogging south around Stanley, then traversing the length of the state, winding up at Superior, Wis.

Tioga business owners say they don’t want trouble from pipeline workers.

“That’s the biggest thing,” said Monica Sundhagen, She said contractors should “be respectful of our community while they are here.”

Haarsager said Enbridge works to educate its contractors to realize their actions are an extension of the pipeline company’s reputation. She said she is the one to call with problems.

— The Tioga Tribune

Urban legend lure

For a group of self-described “over-educated and underemployed” young men from Minnesota, the lure of an “urban legend” is too great to ignore.

That’s why members of the team first came to the oil patch about 18 months ago and why they returned this spring for another look.

Everywhere in Minnesota, it seems, someone knows someone who went to the Bakken for a good-paying job, finding along with it high housing costs, long hours and a culture under siege.

Lewis Wilcox, Jonah Sargent, Jimmy Christenson and Eliot Popko, a four-man independent documentary film crew calling itself “The Cheddar Factory,” want to tell the story of the Bakken oil boom.

They acknowledge they’re treading on ground covered extensively by other journalists from all over the world, but they want to tell a broader story than drugs and women afraid to go out at night.

They hope the as-yet untitled “NoDak Project” brings some perspective to the legend, going beyond the merely salacious stories of the Bakken underbelly, to the bedrock of a lifestyle being changed forever in the nation’s pursuit of energy independence.

— The Journal, Crosby

(Compiled by Steve Andrist, former publisher of newspapers in Crosby and Tioga.)

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