The impact of oil

While a hike in oil activity is lining the pockets of many residents and businesses, it is also causing growing concern for roads, water supplies and housing in the Killdeer area.

Press Photo by Lisa Call Drilling Engineer Grant Pribilski explains how a diamond drill bit makes its way through shale during a tour of a Helmerich & Payne, Inc. oil rig near Killdeer, Tuesday morning.

While a hike in oil activity is lining the pockets of many residents and businesses, it is also causing growing concern for roads, water supplies and housing in the Killdeer area.

The North Dakota Legislative Council Public Safety and Transportation Committee members met with area officials and media representatives to tour an oil rig near Killdeer and discuss the bustling energy development's impacts on infrastructure, Tuesday morning.

Increasing water concerns loom over the industry as most of the area suppliers could meet their quota by June, including the city.

Anywhere from 1 million to 3 million gallons of water are used per oil site to hydraulically fracture the ground to break up shale rock containing oil.

"We are going to meet our quota in maybe a week," said Killdeer City Auditor Dawn Marquardt. "That was from January until now that we have used up our acre-feet that we were allowed."


The area's three major water suppliers -- the Medicine Hole Golf Course, a water depot owned by Manley Truchan of Killdeer and the city -- will be at their water allotment by June, said Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson.

Another big water provider, William Pavlenko of Killdeer, sold more water than his permit allowed last year and was shut down, Meyer said.

"That is going to be a big issue," Marquardt said, adding the State Water Commission was toying with the idea of allowing more acre-footage.

Marquardt said Killdeer residents voted not to connect to Southwest Water Authority, which could have provided an additional source.

"The issue becomes where are we going to get water to frac these wells?" Meyer said.

Southwest Water is constructing a water depot in Dodge, about 30 miles from Killdeer, where oil companies could obtain water.

However, such an option raises additional concerns about wear and tear on area roads.

"If all of that water has to be hauled on that 30-mile stretch of highway ... it's going to take a beating," Meyer said.


If the Dodge water depot isn't opened by June, trucks will have to travel additional miles back to Dickinson for water.

"It's going to be a huge delay on these fracking jobs and what it's going to do to Highway 22 is going to be unbelievable," Meyer said.

The biggest concern for Killdeer Mayor Dan Dolechek lies with the increased traffic, mainly truck activity.

Standing on U.S. Highway 22 through Killdeer, it is not uncommon to see an oil-related truck roll through town every minute or so.

Traffic has also increased on U.S. Highway 200.

"I worry about a grandmother that goes downtown to get her mail or buy the groceries and she's not used to having to wait for 20 frac trucks to go through town before she can pull onto Main Street," Dolechek said.

Dunn County Commissioner Cliff Ferebee of Halliday said he has received several phone calls from area residents about constant dust in the air from all the traffic.

"That's one of our bigger problems with all the traffic we have now in Dunn County," Ferebee said.


As in several other areas of the state, a shortage of rental housing is a growing concern.

Marquardt said she receives multiple phone calls on a daily basis from individuals looking for rentals and space for an RV.

"They get on the market and they're gone within a week or two," Marquardt said. "It comes down to being able to bring in developers and somebody taking that risk."

Marquardt said the housing shortage is so tight, many truck drivers are sleeping in their vehicles and showering at a local gas station.

"That's how desperate they really are," Marquardt said. "They're willing to stay in whatever to be able to work here."

Dolechek said potential developers have requested the city provide infrastructure, but it's a risk the city isn't sure they want to take.

"Once these developers hear that ... that's all we hear of any kind of a housing development going in," Dolechek said.

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