Monday, September 16, 2013

State shouldn’t choose winners, losers in oil patch

State shouldn’t choose winners, losers in oil patch

September 16, 2013 2:00 am  • 



Moves to preserve the Killdeer Mountain battlefield site have raised important questions about private property rights, development and historic preservation.
Agreed, the battlefield has significant historical and cultural value for many people, including the state Indian tribes. However, the battlefield isn’t public property. It’s private land. It has belonged to the same ranching family since 1928. North Dakotans historically have been protective of private property rights and anyone interested in overriding them will find a rough road.
It’s all an issue because the Basin Electric Power Cooperative has asked the North Dakota Public Service Commission for permission to run a transmission line across the battlefield. The co-op recently withdrew a request to place a substation there, in an effort to appease opposition. Basin would pay the property owners for the necessary easements.
Several groups have asked the PSC to deny Basin’s routing of the power line across the battlefield.
The PSC’s decision-making process has been complicated by the National Park Service, which provided $90,000 from its American Battlefield Protection Program to study the battlefield site for possible inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The idea, it appears, is to slow down the PSC’s decision-making process. A similar study was proposed to the North Dakota Legislature, but that body declined to fund it.
Battlefield owner Craig Dvirnak is neutral on the transmission line and opposed to the study. He and some of the other landowners in the area have been left out of the discussion. That seems to be a colossal mistake.
If government restricts the use of Dvirnak’s six sections, over his objections, would it be considered a taking? How would he be compensated? Who would compensate him?
There’s no obvious public or private group waiting in the wings to make an offer to purchase Dvirnak’s property for the sake of preservation, even if he were a willing seller and, from his public comments, that seems unlikely.
It’s important to note that Craig Dvirnak and his family have been generous about allowing people interested in Killdeer Mountain battlefield to have reasonable access to the site. Not too long ago, the family donated artifacts found on the site to Dickinson State University. They have been good stewards of the battlefield.
North Dakota’s Indian tribes asked the PSC to deny Basin’s requests.
It’s a mess.
Basin Electric has a history of being a good corporate citizen — after all it’s member-owned.
The co-op has worked in good faith with the landowner and the PSC.
It was guided by the Legislature’s rejection of the study.
If the battlefield needed to be preserved, local and state government, along with private citizens, should have raised the funds to ensure its future.
If they want to preserve it now, those same parties must work with the landowner to achieve their goal.
There are ways that would allow the Dvirnak family to continue to farm the battlefield without putting it at risk.
The PSC should not use the preservation of the battlefield to reject Basin’s proposal without knowing that there are means and methods in place to to do so, and that the Dvirnaks would be agreeable.
We stand firm with the landowner.

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/opinion/editorial/state-shouldn-t-choose-winners-losers-in-oil-patch/article_168958f2-1ca5-11e3-b1a4-0019bb2963f4.html

http://www.basinelectric.com/News_Center/Publications/News_About_Us/state-shouldnt-choose-winners,-losers-in-oil-patch.html