Thursday, November 14, 2013

Battle Lines vs. Power Lines: Part 3

Battle Lines vs. Power Lines: Part 3

Posted: Nov 14, 2013 6:40 PM CSTUpdated: Nov 14, 2013 9:08 PM CST

KMOT.COM - Minot, ND - News, Weather, Sports

It was here on the Killdeer Battlefield that a U.S. military force commanded by General Alfred Sully attacked several groups of the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota Sioux nations. And it is also the site Professor Tom Isern has chosen for a historical study.

"Killdeer Mountain was chosen because it is the climactic engagement of the Dakota War. I commonly refer to it as the Gettysburg of the plains. Not because of the numbers involved but because of the fate of the sovereign nations are in the battles in this fall day in 1864," says Isern.

Isern says that the growth in North Dakota prompted the study.

"With the rapid pace of development in Western North Dakota there's a sense that we should get a handle on what went down on this battlefield. It's money to figure out what happened where."

The study will be conducted in two parts, starting with looking at historical documents.

"Mostly it's a historical study with historical documents that go all the way back to commanders reports and enlisted men's diaries. And at some point we will ask permission to go on the ground as much as we can and look around. And try and figure out what people would have done in this place given what we know from the documents," says Isern. 

Isern says he thinks that Basin Electric and the historical study can co-exist, but it could mean moving the transmission line. 

"I don't question the need for energy infrastructure in Western North Dakota. The route now specified runs right across the most historic site in all of North America. And that might be a matter of debate I believe it is. But I'm not sure it needs to go exactly in that place."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Battle Lines vs. Power Lines: Part 2

Battle Lines vs. Power Lines: Part 2
Posted: Nov 13, 2013 11:03 AM CSTUpdated: Nov 13, 2013 3:22 PM CST

KMOT.COM - Minot, ND - News, Weather, Sports

As Northwest North Dakota  continues to grow and develop the need for electricity grows exponentially.

"Having the transmission line like this gives us the ability to provide stability to the transmission system that is already in place," says Daryl Hill, Basin Electric.

By 2025 Basin Electric predicts its power demand will increase by 30 percent. To help meet the demand Basin electric has proposed a transmission line that they're calling the "AVS to Neset line," in a place which is lacking infrastructure.

"The infrastructure needs all three. The generation but still you have to have the ability to bring in other sources and that's what this transmission line will do. By bringing power from an existing resource that has the capacity up to an area that needs that," says Hill.
Now the 200-mile proposed transmission line will run 18 miles west of Killdeer up to Williston but it will all start here at the Antelope Valley Station.

Antelope Valley Station outside of Beulah is a coal burning power plant, with the ability and power to add another transmission line. Something Basin Electric has been planning for years.

"We started analyzing this transmission line in 2011. The study application was submitted in
early 2013, 2 years after we had already announced this and well after public announcements had been made about the line in terms of environmental impact statement," says Hill.
But now Professor Tom Isern at North Dakota state University announced a historic study of the Killdeer Battlefield that could interfere with 8 miles of Basin's proposed corridor.

"Really we didn't hear about that study until virtually days before the Public Service Commission had their public meetings scheduled on this line," says Hill.

Despite being surprised by the study, Basin Electric says it has already gained seven and a half miles of easements of the eight that are within the study area, which Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk says is a positive.

"Every project we do whether it's a power line or a pipeline one of the questions I always ask percentage of easements they have. We aren't involved in easements at all but it's a nice way to gauge of how it is being received in the community," says Kalk.

And Hill says Basin Electric is more than willing to work with the various state and federal agencies involved in the permitting process.

"We have an obligation to serve. We have an obligation to get power up into that area so that the whole system doesn't go dark. Because nobody wins if northwest north Dakota is without power," says Hill.
The PSC has completed their hearings, but are still waiting on information that they requested from the Game and Fish Department, and the Historical society. Basin electric is also waiting on information from the Federal Government on an environmental impact study, and are hoping to start construction in 2014. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Battle Lines vs Power Lines: Part 1

Battle Lines vs Power Lines: Part 1

Posted: Nov 12, 2013 5:43 PM CSTUpdated: Nov 12, 2013 5:43 PM CST
KUMV.COM - Williston, ND - News, Weather, Sports

It was here on July 28, 1864, that a U.S. military force commanded by General Alfred Sully attacked several groups of the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota Sioux nations camped at this location. The number of fatalities is not known, but the loss to Native American culture is profound.

It was once the site of a historic battle. But today, the Killdeer battlefield is at the center of a new dispute.

As western North Dakota continues to grow, the need for electricity grows with it. Basin Electric Co-Op has proposals to build a transmission line that will run through an area where some of the fighting took place.

"For generations the Dvirnacks have kept this site," says Craig Dvirnack.

Craig and Rhonda Dvirnack's ranch surround the 1 acre historical site that belongs to the state of North Dakota.

"When my grandfather sold his wheat crop in the fall of 1928 he made a down payment on this ranch. And so it's been in our family since...since then," says Craig.

Over the years the couple have extensively researched the battles that took place along the proposed route.

"It will go through an area where there was fighting that did take place, but it does not go through the state historic site," says Craig.

"We are on section 33, so you can see that the transmission line is over a half mile south of us," says Rhonda. 
Rhonda and Craig believe that energy development can coexist with this historic site.

"I'm for it. You have the communities along the way that this transmission line would supply power to. How can you tell these communities that you can't build a hospital, you can't build a school, you can't build houses or apartments to grow for all the influx of people. How can you tell them you can't provide power for them?" says Craig.

While the Dvirnacks support the transmission line the couple questions a historical study awarded to Professor Tom Isern at the NDSU. Their land, the historic site and the proposed transmission line are part of Isern's study area.

"We don't know what his intentions are to this day because nobody has explained to the landowners out here the ramifications if this study would happen," says Craig.

The Dvirnacks say they have not been contacted by any member of the research team, and that they will continue to support preserving the historic site, and the construction of the transmission line.

Monday, November 11, 2013

ND officials debate need for list of ‘special places’ to be protected

Published November 11, 2013, 10:41 AM

ND officials debate need for list of ‘special places’ to be protected

FARGO, N.D. — A divided North Dakota Industrial Commission soon will decide whether to designate special places subject to development restrictions to protect them from oil drilling or other development.
By: Patrick Springer, Forum News Service
FARGO, N.D. — A divided North Dakota Industrial Commission soon will decide whether to designate special places subject to development restrictions to protect them from oil drilling or other development.

The commission has discussed the possibility of a list of special sites for half a year, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed more than 40 candidate sites on a tour in late August.

Spots include Little Missouri State Park, where Dalrymple made his announcement, Killdeer Mountain, roadless areas in the Little Missouri National Grasslands and the units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem also is compiling a list and formulating a policy for “extraordinary places” that also will include the Little Missouri River as it winds through the western North Dakota Badlands.

Stenehjem planned to present his proposal to his fellow Industrial Commission members at the group’s Nov. 18 meeting, but he told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s editorial board last week that it’s more likely that he will do so at the meeting slated for Dec. 19.

“There’s a lot of beautiful areas out there,” Stenehjem said, adding that the commission, which approves drilling permits, already imposes restrictions to try to minimize impacts.

However, he said, a formal procedure has been lacking, with decisions made on a case-by-case basis as the commission reviews drilling permits.

“I’m working on a plan I can present,” with requirements spelled out in administrative rules that, if passed under emergency provisions, could take effect early next year, Stenehjem said.

Public hearings and opportunities for public comment are included in the rule-making process, he said. Some conservation advocates have complained that the process of designating special places so far has not been open to public participation.

Restrictions could include requiring wells to be located a long distance from special places – say, two miles – or requiring pipe placement to avoid flaring natural gas, he said.

“Just a whole lot of things can be done,” Stenehjem said.

The attorney general said he has met informally with representatives of the oil industry as well as conservation groups to ensure support for his proposal.

In reviewing permits, the commission must balance the rights of mineral holders against the duty to protect landscapes, and must let the public be heard, Stenehjem said.

Devising a list of special places and procedures for developing around the sites would provide the industry greater clarity about how to proceed in certain areas, he said.

“I think industry might be happy if they know what that area is,” he added.

As an example, he said the commission required XTO to drill a well two miles from the Elkhorn Ranch, a unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and a ranch home of the great conservation president, instead of nearby, as the company originally proposed.

“I knew we were never going to put a well on the Elkhorn Ranch,” Stenehjem said.

Besides the Elkhorn Ranch and Little Missouri River, Stenehjem mentioned Killdeer Mountain and battlefield sites, Bullion Butte, and the national and state parks.

The lists Dalrymple and Stenehjem are contemplating appear to have a lot of overlaps, but the third member of the industrial commission, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, said he is not in favor of such lists.

“When you talk about special places, I would consider all of North Dakota special,” Goehring said. “It’s going to be case by case because every site’s unique,” he added, referring to the review of drilling permits.

“I would say we’re doing a good job of doing that, making sure there are stipulations that it’s developed in a responsible manner,” Goehring said, including reclamation requirements for wells and tank clusters.

Goehring has compiled a list of permits that have been issued with stipulations or were rejected, including a running total of the number of acres involved.

Over the past year, 2,741 permits were submitted to the Industrial Commission involving development of about 3.5 million mineral acres.

Of that total, 268 permits involved an “area of concern,” totaling about 343,000 acres.

Thirty-five of those permits, involving 45,000 acres, were rejected. Well placements on another 49 permits encompassing 63,000 acres were modified due to concerns about topography, erosion, watershed or soils.

In a final category, 463 permits affecting 560,000 mineral acres were approved with stipulations, such as shallow aquifer or surface water protection.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Goehring said. “A lot of things I think are beautiful, people pooh-pooh,” including farm fields.

Goehring said he is concerned that if certain places are designated as special, restrictions on agricultural land eventually could result.

“Because there’s people there who would like to see us go back to buffalo commons,” Goehring said, referring to a prediction 20 years ago that vast tracts of the Great Plains would revert to sprawling rangeland for wild game, including buffalo.
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