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Boucher talks, eats with Dunn County residents

KILLDEER -- Agriculture Commissioner Candidate and State Representative Merle Boucher (D-Rolette) talked oil and agriculture with Dunn County residents over dinner and beer at the Buckskin Bar and Grill Wednesday evening.

Those who attended the event voiced their concerns about how oil development in Dunn County has impacted them.

"There's sort of a gold rush mentally here," said Casey Fredericks, a Dunn County Commission candidate.

Some who attended are frustrated over the process of reclaiming abandoned mineral rights. Boucher agreed the process needs revamping.

"Another thing that I do believe is: land is land and that you all are paying -- as surface owners -- paying the property taxes to facilitate the roads and development," Boucher said. "If the mineral is part of that land, the mineral right owners should pay part of property tax."

Fredericks cited a recent oil well leak near Killdeer as cause for concern. He worries over the chemicals the companies are using and doesn't want something worse to happen.

"It just concerns me that we don't wait until the groundwater is ruined where there's a huge problem, before they do something," Fredericks said. "I'm concerned about the oversight."

Dan Dolechek, Killdeer mayor, said he'd like to see water around drilling sites tested for contaminates routinely.

"Why wait until there's an incident before they start monitoring something like that?" Dolechek said.

Some who attended discussed the strain oil activity has put on fire and other emergency services, as well as roads.

Boucher would like to see oil companies who are active in the area help with infrastructure and services.

"While they're here, they should be contributing to it," Boucher said.

Robert Kleeman, Dunn County Commissioner, said oil companies in Dunn County have tried to bully land owners.

Other concerns voiced ranged from traffic to easements.

"There's going to be folks that are just flat going to say 'these people are obstructionists, they don't want drilling,'" Boucher said.

However, those voicing concerns are not necessarily trying to hinder development, he said.

"We have to acknowledge the fact that there are people living in these communities, that have been living in these communities and their life should continue as close to as it was before," Boucher said. "You should be treated fairly and we need to work on a process or processes to make energy development and agriculture compatible because it's happening on the same land."