“What’s most disturbing to me is that Spirit Lake seems to be a rudderless ship.” -- Sen. Kent Conrad commenting on the child care crisis at the reservation. “There is not a structure in place to deal with the crisis.” Conrad said he would call Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “and ask him to send in a team” to do what needs to be done. But “probably the greatest frustration I have in my 26 years (in the Senate) has been trying to make progress” on chronic social issues (on the ND reservations), such as poverty, suicide, crime and the abuse of children, a frustration now focused on Spirit Lake. The comments arose in a meeting with the GF Herald editorial board.
As a result of Conrad’s call, the Dept. of Interior sent a “strike team” to Spirit Lake including social workers and law enforcement, as well as the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The crisis at Spirit Lake and the Interior intervention have been a major developing news story in ND, yet the story didn’t make the the Devils Lake Journal until August 28. The Spirit Lake Reservation is across the lake from the city of Devils Lake.
The Ft. Berthold Reservation had 493 producing oil wells at a recent date. Tribes and individuals on the reservation collected $135 million in oil royalties in 2011 -- thus far in 2012 they have nearly reached that level. The other three major reservations in ND (Spirit Lake, Turtle Mt. and Standing Rock) are rapidly becoming relative “oil have nots.”
Some ND oil wells are located in remote areas without gas-gathering lines. As a result, the gas from those wells is flared (burned). A company called N-Flex has a proposal before the ND Industrial Commission to convert natural gas to fertilizer using mobile plants at the sites of the remote wells. N-Flex is contemplating 50 to 100 “micro” mobile plants. N-Flex has asked the commission for a $1 million contribution to a pilot plant. The commission is interested, but cautious and asking for more information on the feasibility of the technology.
Hoeven sees a bargain. About 500 families are living in temporary FEMA houses at one southeast Minot site. They are slow to leave because of both the cost and unavailability of low cost housing. Sen. John Hoeven is asking FEMA to upgrade the site and make it a long-term place for residents. Hoeven says making the site permanent would cost about $2 million, while dismantling the village would cost $15 million.
A professor at Arizona State University finds the job growth rate in ND is roughly five times the national rate. In his weekly column, Ken Rogers of the Bismarck Tribune marveled at how much better economic conditions were in ND than even nearby areas in SD, Wyoming and Montana. He said, “In North Dakota, we’re feeling a little lucky.”
Industrial water is a major topic in western ND. A Forum article says drilling in the Bakken is expected to require 20-30 million gallons a day; Fargo uses an average of 11 million gallons a day. Lake Sakakawea is ND’s most significant water source. The Army Corps of Engineers has imposed a moratorium on new industrial water from the lake pending the outcome of a study on proposed water fees. Ken Royse is the chair of the Missouri River Joint Water Board, a coalition of eight ND counties. In a letter to state newspapers, Royse argued that “virtually every North Dakota state agency, every member of our congressional delegation and most of our water leadership” does not agree with the proposed fees.
The Williston Police Department is understaffed and overwhelmed due to a doubling of the city’s population in the past decade. A Williston bank was robbed in July -- the department was relieved when a Kansas man turned himself in this month. A spokesman said, “It would be great if all of our cases worked out like this. At least some of the sleepless nights would maybe go away.” Dickinson is in the same boat -- last year the police received 12 calls for fights, so far this year there have been 90 calls, half have been from bars. Fights are a special drain on police manpower -- Dickinson Capt. Dave Wilkie said, “Fights are a higher risk call and require multiple officers to respond. Our officers have to show up en mass to protect themselves and also to get peace and order back.”
Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s proposed three-tiered system for the ND University System is obviously an idea borrowed from California. ShaunAnne Tangney, a professor at Minot State, blasts the idea for being “a tepid and second-hand version” of a failed plan. She calls it a failure because the California Legislature reduced funding for the plan and she suggests ND might do the same. However, it’s a bit difficult to see how California’s state budget crisis should be viewed as a flaw of the plan. Tangney advocates an alternative plan “that allows for individuality and flexibility, innovation and enterprise, originality and resourcefulness.” Only one problem, she never explained how any of that would be accomplished. It is clear Tangney doesn’t like the three-tiered plan, which places Minot State in the second tier.
Why are second tier colleges concerned about the plan? A partial answer comes from Minnesota State in Moorhead where enrollment this fall is down six percent due to referring poor-scoring applicants to two-year schools. Under Shirvani’s plan applicants requiring remedial work would be denied at four-year colleges and directed to community colleges.
Jerry Charlebois (83) is big and good-looking. He was born in Harvey, ND, where his father was a dentist and a member of the Turtle Mt. Chippewa. Charlebois changed his name to Michael Forest and became a ubiquitous character in hundreds of movies and television episodes. He had major roles in over 60 TV shows, often playing Native Americans. If you didn’t see him, you heard him -- he dubbed English into more than 700 Italian and Japanese movies. His extensive career is documented by Curtis Eriksmoen in the Fargo Forum.
Last week, I mentioned that ND’s Germans from Russia are noted for long lives and big families. I might have added Catholic religiosity. The Rev. Richard Gross, who died this August in Grand Forks, grew up in Lawrence Welk’s hometown of Strasburg. He was one of 16 children of John and Magdalena Gross. Richard’s cousin Valentine was also a priest, his brother Benedict is a deacon and his brother Placid is a monk at Assumption Abby. His brother Pius missed a religious calling. Moving from one small parish to another -- from Walhalla to Ellendale and in between -- Richard typified the career of a rural priest in ND
DAKTOIDS: A UND academic research team is documenting the social conditions of “man camps” in western ND . . . What’s flowing in the oil patch? Drugs for one thing. A drug bust in Williston netted seven individuals. Only two were from ND -- Texas, California, Massachusetts and SD all got in the act.