BISMARCK — Surviving an oil boom is not an easy thing for a community. Williston has experienced a lot since the start of the boom and, according to Williston Mayor Ward Koeser, it’s just the beginning.
“We have about $545 million worth of projects that need to be done,” Koeser said Tuesday, while addressing attendees at the 20th annual Williston Basin Petroleum Conference. Koeser was part of a fourm on how to manage an oil boom.
A lot of the oil activity in the Williston Basin has dramatically affected Williston and its surrounding area, Koeser said.
“A lot of the activity in the Basin is in Williston, actually, 90 percent of the current rigs drilling are within a 70 mile radius of Williston,” Koeser said. That activity has brought many people from all over the United State to the doorsteps of the Williston community.
“I’m saying there are about 20,000 people who would say they are residents from Williston,” Koeser said.
In the recent census, the community of Williston was rated as the fastest growing micropolitan area in the United States. Koeser said that growth creates a lot of problems for the residents of Williston. “We do know that we need to plan for more roads, water, sewer, landfills,” said Koeser. The Williston community will likely see changes to its infrastructure some time this summer. Koeser outlined a plan to revamp the road system, creating a truck bypass. He also noted future plans to reposition the Williston airport.
Cindy DeLancey from the Wyoming County Commissioners Association also addressed the conference. DeLancey believes that communication will best equip communities like Williston to be able to combat the problems it faces with the oil boom. DeLancey has faith that North Dakota, just like Wyoming is doing, will overcome the obstacles it faces.
“We know were similar,” DeLancey said. “North Dakotans just like Wyomingites have that innovative spirit.” The situations in Wyoming and North Dakota are similar, but DeLancey said that there is still a long road ahead for communities like Williston.
Williston will continue to be an active community in the oil industry. Despite the issues it is facing, changes are happening. Ward Koeser said, that he hopes someday the city of Williston will become as great a North Dakotan city as Fargo or Grand Forks.
“We hope the day comes that people look at Williston, and they put us in that category, and say, you know, were gonna go out to Williston to visit, that’s a great community,” Koeser said.