I’m not going to apologize for letting the problems confronting the Elkhorn Ranch Site dominate my blog lately. There’s simply no greater priority in my world right now. We’re up against another deadline. Comments on the proposed new bridge for oil trucks across the Little Missouri River near the Elkhorn Ranch must be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration by the end of the day Friday. My comments follow. The address for sending comments is there. KLJ is representing the local, state and federal governments and updating the environmental impact assessment for this project, so the comments go to them. In the end, though, it is up to the federal government to sign off on this project because they will be providing most of the funds fore the bridge, if it is built. I’ll talk more about that process one of these days. If you’d like to help save the Elkhorn Ranch from total devastation,, you can do so by sending your comments to the address below, or by sending them via e-mail to email@example.com. The best source for more information, including the various alternatives KLJ has prepared for the project, is on the Billings County website. I hope you’ll help.
Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson
Jennifer Turnbow, Project Manager
128 Soo Line Drive
Bismarck, ND 58501
June 18, 2012
Regarding: Little Missouri River Crossing
Dear Ms. Turnbow:
I am writing in support of Alternative L, the no-build alternative, in response to your call for comments on the proposed Little Missouri River crossing in Billings County, North Dakota. I suggest this is the best of the alternatives presented at your public input meetings for the following reasons:
- Billings County and your firm have failed to demonstrate the need for this project, except to provide the oil industry a shortcut through the Bad Lands. Other than that, there is no public demand for an additional river crossing. Local traffic, of which there is very little in this remote, sparsely-populated area of the state, has adequate crossing capability at any of the existing low water crossings for much of the year. Spending millions of dollars for the benefit of just one industry is not a good use of public funds. As stated at the Medora public meeting, there is a very large difference between convenience and need. This road and crossing would be more convenient to the oil industry, but at present, and into the near future at least, the oil industry seems to be doing just fine without it. To cause significant environmental damage to the Bad Lands just to make things more convenient for the oil industry is not justifiable, in my opinion.
- The project will result in significant environmental damage to the North Dakota Bad Lands. By the county’s own estimates, the road would be used by hundreds of oil industry trucks daily. The proposed road is a gravel road. The damage from the dust pollution alone, from that many trucks on a gravel road, takes us into unknown territory, because there has never been that kind of traffic through the Bad Lands, which is already an environmentally fragile area. It is territory we don’t want to enter. At present the trucks which would be using this road in this area of the state remain mostly on paved highways, U.S. 85 and I-94. That is where trucks belong.
- The Billings County Commission has acted in bad faith and is not worthy of access to public funds for this project.
- They have mis-stated, in public forums and through the media, many aspects of the project.
- They have said the project will cost $15 million. It will not even approach that figure, according to your own (KLJ) engineers’ estimates of similar projects.
- They have failed to communicate with private landowners on whose property these crossing might be located, and in fact, they have said they are not even allowed to talk to potential affected landowners, which is not true.
- They have said they do not want to put the project near historically significant areas, while at the same time saying they want the project built on public lands, knowing full well the only alternative that involves public lands is the crossing near the historically significant areas.
- They have led the public to believe they, Billings County, will pay for this project when in reality they are seeking up to 80 per cent of the cost of the project through federal funds.
- The highest and best uses of the Little Missouri River Valley are agriculture and recreation. Ranchers in the Valley, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, have gone to great lengths to preserve the land for grazing and limited crop production, and for letting their friends and the general public access the land for hunting, hiking, riding and canoeing. The industrializing of the Little Missouri River Valley in the face of the looming explosion of industry traffic in this area will be detrimental to those ranchers and to anyone else using this area for recreation.
- Statements by Billings County Emergency Services personnel do not make any sense. They say that if they are on a call on the east side of the river and get a call from the west side, a new bridge would facilitate their response. What does that even mean? Would they leave one emergency scene, such as a grass fire, to go to another one? Would they tell an ambulance patient on the east side to hang on because they have to ride along to an accident on the west side? Would they double-bunk ambulance patients? The statements by the emergency services personnel make no sense and are an attempt to play on people’s fears. Better to have multiple emergency vehicles, at a tiny fraction of the cost of building a road and bridge, available for different sides of the river–if they are ever needed, which emergency personnel say has never been the case. Ever.
- Alternative L, the no-build option, is the only one which makes any sense. Alternatives A, B and C all cross the river in the vicinity of the National Park Service’s Elkhorn Ranch Site and would seriously degrade the visitor experience at the critically important historic site. Alternative J is in McKenzie County and that county has not expressed an interest in a river crossing within its borders. All three options of Alternative K are just plain goofy because of their proximity to Interstate 94 and because there is no logical approach from either the east or the west to those potential bridge sites.