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Williston Basin International Airport
Director says Williston Basin International Airport still on schedule, despite cement shortage and paving delays

A little over 100 days remain until the Williston Basin International Airport begins operations, but despite complications with materials, airport officials are still confident that the facility will be up and running by October 10.

Airport Director Anthony Dudas spoke with the Williston Herald on Monday, June 4 to give an update on how the project is progressing. One of the larger projects, the commercial terminal, is continuing on schedule, as is the fire station and snow removal equipment building. Dudas added that the navigational aids for the airport are on-site and should be ready for installation later this week.

One of the most visible signs of progress leading out to the sight is the recently paved County Road 7, which will lead from the bypass on Highway 2 to the airport terminal’s entrance. Both lanes are paved currently, but Dudas said crews will be working this week to add the second layer of asphalt to the road.

While Dudas said most of the projects are tracking right on course for completion, perhaps the most pivotal pieces still awaiting completion is the runway and taxiway, which has been delayed due to a shortage of cement due to excessive flooding in Missouri. The shortage is causing issues not only for the airport, but for construction projects across the upper Midwest, leading Dudas and his staff to come up with alternative plans for the project’s completion.

“We are working with our contractors of both the runway and the taxiway, as well as their material supplier to try to come up with some solutions,” Dudas said. “We’re still working through several ideas, one of them is to truck the material to Williston, and that’s probably something that will occur here in the relatively near future, but we don’t have solid information on that quite yet.”

So far, only the first six inches of cement have been poured on the runway, with an additional 13 inches still needing to be poured. Dudas added that another option is to potentially change the cement supplier, and stated that the contractor working on the runway has already moved forward with the testing requirements for that, should the delays continue longer than currently anticipated. Such a change requires the supplier to make the concrete and put it through a 28 day testing process, which is required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Dudas said that testing is working concurrently with the other alternatives the airport is exploring.

“The runway and the taxiway are not currently pouring concrete, because they’re waiting for that material,” Dudas explained. “Those two projects are currently being delayed as to what the original schedules were. At this point in time, it hasn’t impacted our opening date. We’re working to define exactly when a lot of specific items need to take place.”

Specifically, he added, the flight checks for the runway are a critical timeline piece with the runway, paint markings and runway edge lighting requiring completion before those checks can be done.

“We’re working with the FAA to identify when the deadline is that they need to have that completed so that we can have those runway approaches done for the October 10 commencement.” he explained. “We had an originally scheduled date, and we had backup scheduled dates as well. We’re just working to identify what level of flexibility there might be within that schedule.”

All other projects are still maintaining schedule, Dudas said, and he and his staff are “working diligently” to find solutions for the current paving issue, which he said he will hopefully have more information on later in the week.

Minnesota nursery man talks about bringing more trees to the Plains

On a 50-city tour of North Dakota cities that included Williston on Sunday, Eric Bergeson is finding a lot of the common mistakes well-meaning homeowners make that kill trees with love. Sometimes in the very city park where he is speaking.

These mistakes include weed-eating too close to the tree trunk, nicking it and creating a pathway for disease. That is often compounded by mulch that is either too deep, or that has been pushed up against the crown of the tree’s roots. That may prevent a fatal weed eating, but creates a moist environment prone to rot and ripe for disease.

Some mulch is OK, but it shouldn’t be deeper than 2 or 3 inches, Bergeson said, and should never be piled up around the crown. Keep the root crown clear of such things for healthy trees.

Another common mistake is leaving plastic tubes on for too long. They protect young trees from pests like deer and rabbits in winter but trap moisture when the weather warms up.

Trees that tip do need tying, but not too tightly.

“Putting sticks around and tying the trees up as if they will get out and get into the neighbors garbage is not necessary,” Bergeson said. “Trees need to sway.”

A more subtle issue is winter sun damage in March on the southwest side of trees. Paint the bark on that side with white latex paint in October. Branches can also suffer such damage, and benefit from painting as well.

“You can grow honey crisp apples,” he added. “But only if you paint.”

Trees also hate the plastic or fabric underneath mulch or rock that many homeowners use for weeds.

“You may have the best house on the tour when you first do that, but the trees hate it, and it doesn’t stop the grass. It will all start going downhill from there,” Bergeson said.

The fabric can also get caught up in a mower, which is a safety hazard.

Bergeson prefers cedar mulch with no fabric. Or just lightly till the area around the tree, and place some potted plants there.

“Now if you are doing a row of 100 trees out in the country, then sure use the fabric,” he said. “It’s impossible to weed that many trees, but I would rip it out six years (later).”

Newspapers around trees with some fine grass clippings on top would be OK, Bergeson allowed. But he is dubious about rocks around trees.

“The only plant I know of that grows better with rock than without is roses,” he said. “They like the heat that is stored in the rocks at night.”

Grass, in particular, is a vector for disease to spruce trees. Many wind breaks have spruce trees too close together as well, making the situation worse.

Birch trees, meanwhile, can still be grown in North Dakota, despite birch borers.

“They grow on northern slopes in their native habitats where it is shaded on roots,” Bergeson said. “Birch hate hot roots.”

A birch on the northeast side of a house will do well, Bergeson suggested. And a bare root plant will grow faster than a potted plant.

“It can triple height in the first year,” he said. “Buy a small bare root one, and it will be ahead of the $100 potted one in five years.”

Often, people try growing plants that won’t do well in North Dakota. Magnolias and blue hydrangeas are among examples.

“If it isn’t here now, it won’t be, because people have been trying things here for years,” he said. “Drive up and down here, and you won’t see a blue hydrangea. Don’t think you will be the first.”

Grafts that attempt to work around North Dakota issues are generally poor investments. They cannot stand up to the extremes.

He recommends instead hydrangeas like Annabelle and Incrediball, which will work well in partial shade. For a sunny spot, try Limelight and Little Lamb.

“Put your magnolia energy into hydrangeas!” Bergeson exclaimed.

In addition to talking about trees on the prairie, Bergeson talked about getting soil and water right for perennials and annuals, which makes up the first four chapters of a book he wrote for Plains gardeners.

“Why do we need a different book?” he said. “Well we are colder than the rest of the country, and we have alkaline soil. We are alkaline everywhere in North Dakota. Only 4 percent of the nation’s population lives on alkaline soil. The rest have acid. So that’s what you get on the television channel.”

Alkaline soil chemically locks up nutrients plants need. Nutrients could be purchased to provide iron and so forth, but that’s the expensive remedy.

Instead, Bergeson recommends buying ammonium sulfate from a grain elevator. That’s 20-0-20. It will need to be balanced with a little 10-10-10.

“(Ammonium sulfate) lowers pH and helps free up nutrients,” Bergeson said. “It’s the miracle fertilizer. It’s like 16 cents a pound and it’s better than Miracle Grow.”

He suggests using it like pepper on an egg in a garden space.

“It will not lose strength until it rains, or you finally water,” Bergeson said. “And it doesn’t matter when you put it on. It doesn’t go down fast. It moves like 3 inches down, so just do it every year.”

For sick trees, use a rod to punch a hole in the soil around the tree at the drip line, and then place a tablespoon of ammonium sulfate into each of the holes.

That kind of fertilizer, however, cannot be used in pots. For pots, he recommends time release beads instead.

Traffic stop in McKenzie County turns up 140 grams of meth

A driver in McKenzie County was carrying four bags of meth with enough drugs to last an average user months or even a year, police said.

Shannon Kelly Lloyd, 61, was arrested Saturday, June 22, after police found his 2002 Ford Taurus station wagon in a ditch alongside U.S. Highway 85 south of Watford City, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. The McKenzie County Sheriff’s deputy who arrested Lloyd wrote that the station wagon hadn’t crashed, and that it appeared like the car had been driven into the ditch.

Lloyd was charged Monday, June 24, with a class A felony count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. He was ordered held on $25,000 bond.

When a deputy approached the car, it appeared that Lloyd was asleep, according to court records. Lloyd appeared to be disoriented when he woke up and told the deputy he had been tired so pulled over.

When a deputy asked Lloyd for identification, Lloyd handed over a credit card, charging documents state. He told the deputy he was going to an RV park, but was heading south and was several miles past the entrance for the park.

The deputy searched the car and found a bag of what he believed to be methamphetamine on the front passenger seat, court documents indicate. A further search of the vehicle turned up four bags containing a total of 139.74 grams, or 4.89 ounces, of meth.

Lloyd told police that the drugs were his and that he had last used meth the day before. The deputy noted that the bags were filled with large shards of meth, which he called unusual.

“All four baggies contained large shards that are uncommon to see possessed by a methamphetamine user who is not distributing narcotics,” the deputy wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

The deputy also questioned Lloyd’s claim that the drugs in the car were all for him. In the charging documents, the deputy wrote that the large shards in the bags each weighed about 5 grams, and would have to be crushed before they could be ingested.

He also wrote that based on his training and experience in law enforcement, the average meth user consumes about half a gram daily and buys quantities of between 1 and 3 grams at a time.

“It would take the average methamphetamine user approximately one year to consume the amount of methamphetamine in Lloyd’s possession,” the deputy wrote.

Lloyd is scheduled to be back in court on July 25 for a preliminary hearing.

Threat of severe storms this throughout North Dakota

Meteorologists are predicting that the storm system that caused severe weather over the weekend is going to shift north, causing storms across the Great Plains and Upper Midwest.

A northward push in the jet stream will bring about this change in the pattern this week, according to Accuweather.

“By the middle of the week, a corridor from eastern Montana through the Dakotas and much of the Midwest can face frequent bouts of these violent storms,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.

The first round of storms is forecast to erupt across the Dakotas on Wednesday afternoon and dive southward into parts of Nebraska or Iowa into Wednesday night. Another complex of storms may erupt in eastern Montana.

A storm system emerging into the northern Plains could trigger yet another complex of storms in eastern Montana that barrels eastward into North Dakota Thursday night.

The main threats from these storms will be from flooding downpours and damaging winds, but large hail and a few tornadoes cannot be ruled out, especially in the first few hours after the storms develop each day.

Bakken Midstream CEO Mike Hopkins talks about what it takes to add value-added natural gas to North Dakota
Q & A with Bakken Midstream's Mike Hopkins

Bakken Midstream is looking into building the kinds of infrastructure that would be attractive to value-added natural gas industries, whether fertilizer, plastics, or something else. They have not yet announced what the projects might be, though they have said they think they will be able to announce them as early as late this year. The Williston Herald interviewed the company’s CEO Mike Hopkins about what the company is looking for, and why their effort will be different than previous attempts.

Q: What are some of the things these value-added industries will need in a location? Talk in terms of things like underground storage, and so on.

A: When you talk about the value-added industry itself, the ones who come because of the infrastructure, they are going to want water. They need transportation, railways, and they need a workforce.

You are correct about storage. There are different types of storage you can use. Some are better than others. There are all these choices to be made. We are looking at a variety of choices, but one way or another (any given project) will need storage.

They will also need proximity to the feedstock. Sometimes it’s natural gas just as natural gas, and sometimes it’s the liquids you can extract from the natural gas. The people who want to do value-added don’t want to do the work. They want it there, in proximity.

So I would say around the Bakken is the area of obvious interest to us, and to the kinds of companies that would want to do value-added.

It’s a complicated process that you go through, and that is what we are going through. We are very well into it. We balance all of these factors and proximity to markets that want the value-added products, so where does it make sense to have a cluster and have things distributed. You can come to Alberta to see how they did it.

Q: Why did Bakken Midstream pick North Dakota for this?

A: Steven Lebow is the chairman and founder of Bakken Midstream. He has invested and helped build some of the greatest companies around. Part of building a great company is building one that endures, and that is going to be around for decades, or generations. I think what he sees in North Dakota — and I think he was intrigued by friends and intrigued by the state —is principally this abundant growing natural gas resource that has not been effectively taken advantage of. He saw that as a combination of tremendous opportunity that is not a flip or a quick hit, but one with the right partners and the right capital that can be a business that goes on for generations. Steven is a person like myself, who looks to not only do well in business, but to do good. And this is a tremendous opportunity to do good.

Everything we’ve looked at, every single project that is under consideration, is going to be good for North Dakota.

Q: How many projects is Bakken Midstream looking at doing in the Bakken?

A: If we are breaking it down individually, there are at least 12. Obviously, we are not going to do all 12 at once, but we have looked at 12 different projects. Once we have individual priorities nailed down, then we will announce where and what.

We have looked at a number of things that are effective for when we talk about a whole new industry. It’s not just one project. Nothing we are doing is a one-off. Nothing is on its own. Everything we are looking at relates to everything else in an integrated industry.

Q: Are these projects speculative then?

A: Everything we are doing, we are working with the people who would utilize them. It’s important that we are building what people want, so no, we don’t want to do it on speculation. Every project we are working on, we are working intimately with the people who would use that service or that infrastructure. We will contract with the customers who need the infrastructure.

Q: Will there be other rounds of funding for the projects in addition to the first round of Series A?

A: The people the utilities are looking at large capital investments. (The series A) is the first round of corporate funding. There may be additional rounds of corporate funding.

We will certainly be raising significant funding for specific projects. There will be specific funding for specific projects.

One of the reasons we are excited about the investors in our company, those are the ones we will look to be working with when we get to very large capital meetings. As we get into project meetings, the capital costs will run into hundreds of millions and even into billions just in terms of what we are doing, let alone what they are doing. So, as we set up Bakken Midstream, we had to make sure we are setting it up in a way not just to access capital for our company, but to make sure we had the access to capital and the right relationships for the very significant capital required for the actual projects.”

Q: What makes this effort by Bakken Midstream different from previous efforts toward a petrochemical industry?

A: It’s not about coming in and doing a particular project. If you want to build a value-added industry, you have to look at the whole state. You have to look at all the resources, how they are utilized and how they can be utilized. Yes, at some point it comes down to one project at a time, but in the past they tried one thing, and that, the infrastructure wasn’t there and the other services. So we are looking at it from what infrastructure is needed to attract the companies that do value-added. I don’t think anyone has come in to do what we are doing.

Another thing is, we do have a roadmap. I came from Alberta, Canada. They set out to say we are going to change things. We need the infrastructure to utilize gas. They had extra flaring as you do. They were exporting a raw commodity as you do. They built out an infrastructure, and now they have a complete, value-added industry, and it really helps them. It protects them from the ups and downs of oil prices. A value-added industry is more steady. A lot of jobs are involved. It was a great addition to Alberta, making it not just a pure oil play.

Q: Is North Dakota offering what the petrochemical industry needs in the way of incentives, or do they need to offer other things as well? How has it been working with Gov. Doug Burgum and other state officials?

A: Anywhere that there is significant investment in petrochemicals, there is almost always if not always, significant government support to attract that kind of capital. That kind of capital is intending to come there to invest for years. Plants like this are billions of dollars.

One of the things that has impressed me about the state of North Dakota is that they want to innovate, not so much as legislate. Innovate is the right way to think about this.

My impression (of Burgum) is that he is the right kind of guy to help bring in industry. I have met him and other officials with the state, and I will tell you that working with different agencies of the state — and these are in the early days of our work — they were tremendously helpful in getting ourselves fully educated. We were able to learn everything we needed to learn about what makes North Dakota different, including disadvantages and advantages.