EconTracker News

May 3, 2012 11:44 AM by Jay Kohn (KTVQ Billings)

Bakken Oil Boom: Williston struggling with growth

BILLINGS- One year ago we took a trip into the Bakken oil fields to bring back the story of the huge oil boom gripping the Williston Basin.

We learned about horizontal drilling and how the new technique known as "fracking" has fueled a new oil rush that is changing lives and landscapes in eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

Montana News Station's Jay Kohn headed back on the road to Williston to experience the Bakken Boom a year later.

Taking a trip into the Bakken oil fields these days is a dangerous venture as semi-trucks rule the road, and they are everywhere. Local officials report that trucks now makes up at least 30% of local traffic.

City and state officials are scrambling to get a new truck route in place, but that's easier said than done. Meanwhile, Billings resident Rick Leuthold's development company Sanderson Stewart is helping Williston officials deal with the sudden boom that has transformed their town into the fastest growing city in America.

Over at the city's public works department, Monte Meiers's top concern is pretty basic as the sewage plant is over its capacity. But the city has been entangled in water and legal issues with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, issues that have meant months and now years of delay.

The Bakken oil boom created more than 12,000 jobs in the Williston Basin from 2010 to 2011 and this year another 10,000 jobs will be added. But it's a pace that has local officials here running on empty.

Williston native John Schmitz has an interesting perspective on what's happening to his hometown. He grew up in the area and his first job was working as a rough neck on an oil rig. Today he owns his own oil company and just happens to own land where the new truck route is headed.

Officials warn that as crazy as things are in Williston right now it's bound to get even crazier as the oil boom continues.


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