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State outlines steps to help oil counties following public meetings

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Energy Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

BISMARK-- North Dakota will soon have a state energy impact coordinator to monitor local issues in the oil- and gas-producing counties and to report on the region's progress, the governor announced today.

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State officials released a report summarizing the feedback they received last month during public meetings in 14 western North Dakota oil cities. The report also outlines state efforts to provide help.

During the meetings, officials from nine state agencies visited with nearly 600 local officials and residents to hear their concerns about the challenges from rapid oil and gas development.

Truck traffic, the need for more law enforcement and the housing shortage were common concerns during the meetings, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said.

The report is divided into four categories: transportation, housing, safety and planning. Here are main points from each of those sections.

Transportation

Since July, the state has provided about $307 million for transportation projects in oil country, the report said. About $605 million in additional funding remains to be invested during the 2011-13 biennium.

Creating truck reliever routes is a big part of transportation efforts, Dalrymple said. A temporary bypass is expected to be finished in Williston by mid-summer. The first phase of a truck reliever route in New Town is also expected to be complete this summer.

Truck reliever routes in Watford City, Dickinson and Alexander are in the planning stages. Killdeer has expressed interest in a truck reliever route for the city but a formal request has not yet been submitted to the Department of Transportation, Dalrymple said.

In addition to bypasses, the DOT is working on a plan to add turnoff lanes on U.S. Highway 2 from Stanley to Williston. The state would like to see private companies invest in turnoff lanes for water depots and crew camps, Dalrymple said.

"We need to be asking private companies to finance and pay for these additional safety features as they are the ones that are the primary beneficiaries of this," he said.

The DOT is reviewing signage, traffic lights and speed limits in oil country, Dalrymple said. The Highway Patrol is going to increase personnel and time allocated to load limit enforcement and work on a proposal for the Legislature to consider allowing counties to share in the fines collected on county roads, Dalrymple said.

Regarding dust issues, Dunn and McKenzie counties will work with the state to study solutions to reduce the impacts from dust. And to reduce traffic overall, the North Dakota Pipeline Authority will continue to encourage the development of pipelines, Dalrymple said.

For more on this story, read tomorrow's paper.

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