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Amidon talking about growth

A semi truck enters the tiny southwestern North Dakota town of Amidon in this undated image. Amidon may face challenges with growth if oil activity in the Tyler Formation picks up.

AMIDON -- With all the talk of the Tyler Formation possibly ramping up with oil drilling activities in the near future, one small southwest North Dakota community has largely been left out of the conversation.

Though bigger communities that could be affected by increasing Tyler activity -- Bowman, New England and Belfield -- have gotten more attention, it's an even bigger question of what would happen to the tiny Highway 85 community of Amidon if it suddenly faced an influx of activity and, therefore, people?

In light of one Marathon drilling rig currently prospecting a few miles northeast of Amidon in Slope County, Southwest Water Authority Commissioner Dave Juntunen raised the topic at a recent board meeting.

The question, of course, based on hypotheticals, was asked in a rhetorical manner and was based around the experiences of similar communities in northwest North Dakota's Bakken region.

Nevertheless, Amidon Mayor Jerry Erickson said people in his area are talking.

"I don't think there's just one attitude about it," Erickson said. "You have some people who think (increased oil activity) would be great and some who would just assume it not happen at all. If it does happen, though, there's nothing you can do about it."

The Marathon well in Slope County is the first horizontal fracking site in the Tyler. But, if it's successful, it's not likely to be the only one.

Marathon spokesman John Porretto reiterated Thursday that the North Dakota Industrial Commission has approved four spacing units for the company in the Tyler.

"We have nothing further to report at this time," Porretto stated in an email to The Press.

Whether or not Amidon -- which has a population of about 30 -- does witness significant growth soon or ever, area leaders know it's better to plan ahead than be swallowed up an overnight oil rush.

"We don't have any housing available or even a convenience store right now," Erickson said. "I don't know if we, as a city, or Slope County are going to do anything to provide housing or any of those sort of things. It would probably have to be someone willing to come in and invest some money here."

There are some changes already in the works for Amidon, however.

Work is set to begin this month on a new multi-purpose city building and Erickson said a bid has been awarded to build a new courthouse to replace Slope County's nearly 100-year-old wooden structure, which Erickson said would be demolished, dismantled or moved.

In addition, Chris Fitterer of New England-based Fitterer Oil Co. said there have been discussions about placing credit card-operated fuel pumps in Amidon, which could co-exist with a new convenience-type store, an idea Fitterer said has been floated by another potential developer.

"The town isn't going to dry up and disappear," Erickson said. "We've already had some growth and we'll probably have more. If someone were to come in with a store or a café, I think it would work. There's enough traffic through town."

An issue that could hamper Amidon's potential growth is the availability of water to any new residents or businesses.

Though Amidon does not receive collective water service from Southwest Water, individual residents were given an option to sign up for service from the water authority about 10 years ago.

Southwest Water CEO Mary Massad said handful of residents in the Amidon area have signed up for service in the past decade. She added that certain accommodations could likely be made in the future if the town becomes a new oil hotbed community.

"A lot of people in town have Southwest Water because they signed up individually," said Juntunen, who lives northwest of Amidon. "I have Southwest Water and I love it, but the water capacity is pretty much all used up and this area has very poor well water. It's not known yet, but I would guess that the water issue would be brought up more and more if Marathon hits some decent wells in the Tyler. If that happens, you know it would get a lot busier around here."

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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