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Lawmakers to take a tour of Oil Patch

FNS Photo by Michael Vosburg New home construction is seen in this aerial photograph July 9 in Watford City. About 50 lawmakers will get a tour of McKenzie County next month.

WATFORD CITY — Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford says it’s time to shift the focus on why the oil patch is important to the entire state.

And he plans to make his message loud and clear to as many as 50 North Dakota lawmakers when they visit his once-sleepy town, as part of a North Dakota Petroleum Council-sponsored event on Aug. 26-27.

“It’s the only thing I’ve wished for. The ability for lawmakers to see this firsthand, to feel the buzz, to see the dirt, to smell the diesel fuel, to see the trucks — best thing to have them see it,” Sanford said.

The two-day bus tour will allow lawmakers to get out west and see what’s going on, said Alexis Brinkman, the council’s government relations manager.

The tour will be focused in the Watford City area, near what’s now considered the epicenter of the state’s energy development in McKenzie County.

Watford City has seen its population increase from 1,744 in the 2010 U.S. Census to 6,500 customers using the city’s wastewater system, which doesn’t factor in RVs and other temporary housing. Sanford said population estimates range from 12,000 to 20,000.

North Dakota is second to Texas in oil production, and its output generates more than 1 million barrels daily.

Democratic Rep. Lois Delmore of Grand Forks said the tour should be interesting. She knows there are many issues in the region including health care, human services and law enforcement. However, she wants to recognize that progress has been made and then understand the work that needs to be done in the upcoming Legislative session.

Sanford said Watford City, among other oil-producing communities, only receives 25 percent of the oil and gas production tax revenue it generates. He aims to propose increasing that to 60 percent.

The 2015 legislative session will convene Jan. 6.