“Holy cow, I didn’t think it would happen this fast” -- Ron Ness, president of the ND Petroleum Council, expressing surprise when March ND oil production moved slightly past that of Alaska, making ND the #2 production state. Crossover was expected to happen this year, but not so quickly -- a mild ND winter was a factor. Texas is #1 -- its oil production is roughly three times ND or Alaska.
Bill Marcil is chairman of Forum Communications in Fargo which owns many media properties, including the daily newspapers in Dickinson, Grand Forks, Fargo and Jamestown. His wife Jane Black Marcil is from the family which owned and published the Fargo Forum; son Bill Marcil Jr. is the publisher of the Forum. Bill and Jane Marcil have emerged as leading philanthropists in the region. They helped fund new presidential homes at UND and NDSU and recently donated $1 million to the Offutt School of Business at Concordia College. Tom Dennis at the GF Herald observed that fostering university growth can promote economic development just as effectively as business tax incentives. Separately, Forum Communications has pledged $100,000 to develop a strategic plan to coordinate the economies of Grand Forks and Fargo.
A dishonest, drunken father; an extremely cruel stepmother; beatings and illness; demeaning jobs; and homes lost to fire: Norma Egstrom endured all those problems as a child, yet found hope in music and dancing and became Peggy Lee, one of the greatest jazz singers of her time. Forum columnist Curtis Eriksmoen has a three-part series on her life.
Five Indian tribes from several states call themselves COLT (Coalition of Large Tribes). The COLT members are upset with the federal government about a range of issues involving taxation, natural resources and tribal sovereignty. Their biggest grievances relate to new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on tribal lands, which threaten to slow reservation oil development. Their spokesman said there was a “lack of respect” and the “federal agencies are illegal and disrespectful.” COLT met at Three Affiliated Tribes headquarters in New Town and the spokesman leading the charge was TAT chairman Tex Hall.
The Three Affiliated Tribes are usually able to finance projects, but have a hard time wrapping them up. They were given a new health center. The Indian Health Service operates and maintains the facility, and pays the staff. It’s not fully staffed because potential staff members can’t find or afford homes in the area because of the oil boom. Tex Hall wants an additional $12 million -- from somebody -- to construct homes. Also, New Town is clogged with oil traffic and has designed a bypass to be funded by state and federal money. However, the project is a year in the future because TAT did not obtain environmental clearances.
McKenzie and Williams counties have about five percent of the state population, yet have 34 percent of its auto fatalities. Officials say the crashes are not necessarily oil industry related, but indicative of dangerous roads in the oil patch.
Attorneys and judges can’t keep up with rising oil patch caseloads. Courtrooms in Dickinson are constantly busy with civil and criminal cases. The SW District (Dickinson) had a 50 percent increase in traffic cases since 2008.
School problems in the oil patch are well known -- less known is the extent to which those problems are pushing into communities outside the oil patch. Because of housing shortages, young families are commuting from small communities on the fringe of the oil zone. Towns such as Rhame and Mott face sudden enrollment jumps. School officials are unsure how to respond -- they don’t want to build permanent facilities for what may be short-term demand.
The state's new residents have consumed all the housing in western ND. A market analyst said Williston has an immediate need for 7,000 homes. A housing summit in Williston attracted 350 people from 33 states.
“Yes, the man camps cause problems, just substantially less problems than any other way to handle it.” -- a quote from the Dickinson Press. GF Herald columnist Tom Dennis urged western ND counties to reconsider their man-camp moratoriums. He said man camps are an alternative to chaos.
Ken Rogers of the Bismarck Tribune believes there is too much talk in ND about “oil field trash,” people moving to the state to work in the oil patch. Rogers cautions Nodaks about insulting oil-workers who are in ND with good reason and are essential to the oil boom. If that was not enough reason to be tolerant, Rogers reminded Nodaks that, beginning with the great depression and drought in the 1930s, sons and daughters of the state have been migrating to the West Coast, Denver and Minneapolis for work. He said, “Treating outsiders who are doing the same thing with disrespect is so very wrong.”
The industrial park in Spiritwood has been a great disappointment with the cancellation of an ethanol plant and delays in production at a coal-fired energy plant. The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. has been desperately trying to find businesses to fit the park. Their latest scheme looks like a big stretch. Westbound coal trains are usually empty -- a company is proposing to use the empty trains to bring iron ore from northern Minnesota to Spiritwood to be smelted using biomass materials gathered in the area. Almost every aspect of the proposal is unproven. The JSDC has applied for a grant for a pilot plant study.
Every so often, I mention the obituary of an interesting everyday person. Urius Wayne “Mickey” Packineau (77), whose Indian name means Riding a Roan Horse, is one. Mickey was born in Elbowoods (now beneath Lake Sakakawea) and was salutatorian of his high school class. He attended the Haskell Institute in Kansas (post high school training for American Indians). He served overseas in the Air Force, earned a Wahpeton degree in electronic technology and moved to California. He returned to ND to work for the Ft. Berthold Housing Authority. One of his proudest moments was when his twin grandsons, Neil and Nathaniel, won the ND Class “B” Basketball Championship in 2007.
A Fargo woman was stopped by police for exhibition driving. Czesia Marie Van Meter (43) wishes that were the extent of her problems. When she pulled out her driver’s license, a marijuana leaf stuck to the back of it. Careless Czesia has drug charges in addition to driving charges.
DAKTOIDS: With huge federal deficits, we should be concerned where our money is going. In the midst of a booming farm economy, the USDA loaned $700,000 to build a farm equipment dealership in Ashley . . . The oil conference in Bismarck next week expects 4,000 registrants -- the biggest such event there in 30 years.