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BLM to consider land transfer near Dickinson

Press Photo by Bryan Horwath A Bureau of Reclamation sign sits on a fence post Monday just west of a 10-acre plot of land on the outskirts of Dickinson. By mid-2013, the land could be home to a new housing development for Bureau of Land Management employees.

Because of the housing crunch in Dickinson, the Bureau of Land Management has proposed a transfer of 10 acres of land for government housing on the outskirts of the city.

A public meeting on the potential transfer is scheduled to take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, at the BLM North Dakota Field Office in Dickinson.

The land in question is a 10-acre plot owned by the Bureau of Reclamation on its Dickinson Reservoir parcel within Tract 37, according to a release from the BLM.

BLM Public Affairs Specialist Mark Jacobsen said the proposed housing units -- which would likely be in the form of duplexes -- would potentially help the agency accommodate future employees.

"As most people in the area know, there is a housing shortage right now in Dickinson," Jacobsen said. "Our North Dakota field office, like many other employers, is feeling the effect of that shortage. This would be a way to alleviate some of that concern for affordable housing."

The undeveloped parcel sits just off ND Highway 10 west of Dickinson, sandwiched between an industrial park and residential area. Jacobsen said the units could provide housing for "a handful of families" of individuals employed by the BLM. If approved, the project could be finished by the summer of 2013.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation, according to its website. Part of what the BLM does is work to ensure that mineral assets are "managed and developed properly and responsibly according to the law," said Jacobsen.

With the Bakken bustling with oil exploration and activity, and showing no signs of letting up, the BLM expects to have plenty of work to do out of its Dickinson office.

"We'd like to get out in front of this issue so we can accommodate individuals and families who would be moving here," Jacobsen said. "We know that the leasing of Federal lands for drilling purposes will only increase. What we're seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. We could always use more people and this is part of addressing those deficiencies."

Due to the impacts from increased exploration efforts in the Bakken in the past few years, housing -- especially affordable housing -- has become scarce in Dickinson, which has made attracting and keeping workers a concern for both private businesses and public agencies and municipalities.

Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said the city expects to soon procure four housing units focused on Dickinson Police Department employees. The city now owns two homes north of City Hall and operates six mobile homes as "transitional housing for city staff," said Kessel.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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