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Ward County puts massive oil load facility on hold

An overflow crowd of more than 60 turned out Thursday night in Minot to show support for Baden Township residents who may be faced with a gargantuan industrial project.

11/27/13 (Wed)

Protests heard . . . Energy Infrastructure Partners spokesman Greg Barlow speaks with Baden Township clerk Sharon Lehman following a Ward County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in Minot Thursday night. Barlow wants to build a crude oil loading facility capable of filling two unit trains daily, but Lehman rallied Coulee-area residents to attend the meeting and speak out against it.

By Marvin Baker

An overflow crowd of more than 60 turned out Thursday night in Minot to show support for Baden Township residents who may be faced with a gargantuan industrial project.

A New York City company called Energy Infrastructure Partners wants to build a massive crude oil loading facility just to the northwest of Coulee, in Ward County’s Baden Township.

Nearly everyone in attendance, which represented a greater population than Baden Township, was against the proposal for plat approval as well as a special use permit to build the facility.

Following a lengthy public hearing, Ward County Planning and Zoning tabled the request until a formal traffic study can be conducted and a waste water management plan reviewed.

“We’re opposed to this,” said Baden Township resident Walt Christensen. “Let’s be basic here. We don’t see any benefits from this, just costs. And as far as Ward County is concerned, there’s no benefit. What are you going to get, the same as Baden Township, costs.”

A major concern for local residents is the projected increase in truck traffic.

The facility, which, at capacity could load out two unit trains, would see trucks coming and going around the clock.

Baden Township clerk Sharon Lehman did the math, which she theorized is nearly impossible.

“If you’re talking about two trains, that’s 1,200 trucks. That’s a tanker every one to two minutes going down N.D. Highway 50,” Lehman said. “Many producers farm on both sides of Highway 50 and cross with combines and other equipment. It will be a farmer’s worst nightmare.”

Kenny Hancock, an engineer with Wilson & Co., a firm that engineered an EOG facility in Stanley, said 100 acres of the 454-acre plot, would be set aside for trucks to move in and out.

He didn’t confirm the 1,200 trucks per day, but said 100 acres is a large area to get them off the road to avoid congestion on N.D. 50.

Greg Barlow, a local spokesman for Energy Infrastructure Partners, added, however, that he anticipates 24-hour staffing if two unit trains are being loaded on the parallel 8,000-foot loops.

He said use of township roads is unlikely, which happens to be another one of Lehman’s concerns.

“Most of the (oil) wells are west of N.D. Highway 8,” Barlow said. “Ninety-nine percent of the traffic would be coming from Powers Lake.”

Barlow added he understood that N.D. 50 is unrestricted year-round, suggesting weight limits would not go into effect.

A current North Dakota Department of Transportation load restrictions map shows N.D. 50 does indeed have an 8-ton limit from the junction of N.D. Highway 8 north of Stanley to U.S. Highway 52, two miles east of Coulee.

According to DOT, the maximum axle group weight limit is 42,000 pounds and the gross weight limit is 105,500 pounds. A loaded tanker generally weighs between 72,000 and 80,000 pounds, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Lehman argued that if N.D. 50 would be the primary use highway, once the trucks are empty, there’s no guarantee, nor local or even county control to keep them off township roads.

“Once the trucks are empty, we can’t restrict them,” she said. “So they’re going to take short cuts. A lot of this has to be looked at now before approval, including frac sand and diesel. There’s a lot of concern and we’d like a continuance to study this.”

Barlow had little to say.

“I think our response should be deferred until we have a professional opinion on a traffic study.”

 Numerous other concerns were addressed during the public hearing.

One was from Baden Township resident Tahnee King. She lives across the road from the proposed site. King was applauded for her remarks.

“That land produces crops every year and right now that land produces well,” she said. “I don’t see it as progress when you’re taking land out of production. I find it hard to understand how this would be progress.”

Ironically, a young Air Force officer was the one who dropped a bombshell. He wasn’t speaking for or against the proposal. He was speaking on behalf of national defense.

First Lt. Jose Davis told the commission the Air Force has a 1,200-foot setback restriction around a nearby missile site. During any emergency that restriction is increased to 2,500 feet.

According to Davis, a portion of the proposed facility would sit within that extended setback and in case of an emergency, the federal government would have the authority to shut the rail facility down.

“Our assets are a national priority,” Davis said. “And Highway 50 is a major route to get to that site It’s just a slice of it, but the federal government has that authority.”

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