Officials at the Williston Basin International Airport are breathing a sigh of relief as a temporary solution for the facility’s ongoing cement shortage has been found.
The airport has been dealing with a lack of cement needed to complete projects at the site, most notably the runway and taxiway. Flooding in Missouri, where the supplier is located, has created a cement deficiency not just for Williston’s airport project, but for companies all across the upper Midwest.
Airport Director Anthony Dudas said the runway is a “critical timeline piece” to complete, as the paint markings and runway edge lighting must be completed before the FAA can do the required flight checks on it.
The Williston Herald spoke with Dudas on June 24 regarding the cement shortage, and Dudas said the airport was working with the contractors and material supplier to come up with a solution that would keep the airport’s timeline intact.
In a news release received on Tuesday, July 2, the City of Williston states that 3,000 tons of cement are being shipped every week to the airport site to ensure that the runway work can continue uninterrupted.
Dudas told the Williston Herald Tuesday that the airport became aware of the first shipment in transit around June 26, and that another 3,000 tons had been delivered July 1 or 2.
“We’ve been informed, at least through our contractors that are constructing the runway and the taxiway, that their supplier is so far committing to approximately 3,000 tons per week,” Dudas explained. “This allows both of those contractors to continue. Unfortunately it isn’t at full production level, but they are able to make progress.”
The cement is shipped via rail to Minot, where it is then transported to the airport site by truck. Only the first six inches of cement had been poured for the runway, but an additional 13 inches of cement is required before it is complete. The cement will be used to complete the taxiway, as well. Dudas said the amount coming weekly is significant, but that the airport is working to bring in even larger quantities in order to maintain on schedule.
“While this is not exactly what we have been hoping for as far as material delivery,” he said. “We could definitely utilize more on the project to continue to progress, but it is moving in the right direction and with this amount of cement, we currently anticipate maintaining our commencement of operations date of October 10.”
Williams County Commissioners approved a conditional use permit for a 150 million cubic feet per day gas plant with 4 to 1 vote — above the objections of the plant’s neighbors, and despite a tie vote from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Commissioner Beau Anderson cast the dissenting vote, saying he preferred to see the matter go back to the Planning and Zoning board for more support, as well as to allow that body to decide the conditions for the plant’s operation.
A tie vote from Planning and Zoning is generally treated as a recommendation to deny a permit, Sam Henderson, senior planner for Williams County, told commissioners prior to the vote. He had included staff recommendations for the plant’s operation in all the Commissioner’s meeting packets, however, in case the board decided to approve the permit.
Trevor Martin represented the company making the request, made by John Aisenbrey of Nesson Gathering. The company is listed as a subsidiary of XTO by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The plant would be located on 76 acres in Judson Township. Martin brought a slide of the proposed layout, which included an outline for an adjacent future plant, if the company decides to expand.
“We would come back to the commission in that case to ask for permission,” Martin said.
The plant would include refrigeration compression to knock out heavier particles and make the gas sellable.
“There is already power capability in the northwest corner that would serve any power needs of the plant,” he added. “It is also located near an NGL pipeline to pump liquids off with only some minor trucking for water. There are a lot of great advantages to this location.”
The plant’s nearest neighbors, Dave and Tammie Bentz, spoke in opposition to the plant, which they said is a quarter of a mile from their home.
“We are not opposed to oil and gas,” Dave Bentz said. “But if there were ever an explosion there, there are oil tanks less than half the distance away. If this thing went, it would take everything from there to the road.”
He said he had read about a plant that blew up, and everything from 10 miles around it was evacuated.
Dave Bentz also said the couple are concerned about noise, smells, and lighting.
“It sounds like jet engines, from what I’ve read online,” he said. “And where we live, everything comes from the northwest. With the wind, we are going to get everything from this gas plant.”
He also expressed concern about the road. It already has heavy traffic on it that it is not designed to take, he said, and has limited visibility in some areas. Small cars can’t see large trucks coming and vice versa.
“How is the road going to handle all this?” he asked.
Martin responded that the plant would have two shifts of four workers each, and, other than that, would have limited trucking for water.
“The gas is dehydrated in the field before it comes here, so it’s only residual water that is left over,” he said.
He added that the plant will follow strict industry guidelines to ensure safety, and that the structure has been designed to address some of the couple’s concerns.
“All the compression is inside, to dramatically reduce the noise,” he said. “And all of the compression is on the north side of the facility, to get as far away from neighbors as possible.”
Lighting will be directional, and focused downward.
“It won’t be the big halogen lights, lighting up the entire sky,” he said. “It will be only as much as needed.
We have tried to design this so it will be as little impact as possible,” he said.
As far as the road, Martin agreed there are issues, but added that the company will leave the road in better condition than it was found in.
“As you know we do a lot of work at our other plants to make sure the road stays up to a good standard,” he said.
He estimated there would be three to four truck loads coming in during construction per week.
“We would do a majority of the civil work this summer, lay off in the winter, and then resume for six to nine months next year.”
The couple said many companies have come into that area making similar promises, but they were not kept.
Williams County Chairman David Montgomery said the permit is for conditional use, so if there are problems and the company doesn’t follow through, the issue can be addressed in the future.
Expansion a concern
“What I worry about is the expansion,” Dave Bentz said. “It’s going to get worse and worse and it’s right on our door step.”
Tom Lunnen, representing an industrial real estate developer, was also present at the meeting.
He recalled how his company had come to the county to ask where commissioners wanted them to put industrial developments.
“They pointed us in this direction,” he said. “We struck our deals out there with Statoil and Hiland Crude, which are large industrial users. And then we constructed one of the largest industrial facilities in the region, the Dakota Access terminal.”
Based on that, Lunnen urged commissioners to approve the conditional use permit.
Commissioner Steve Kemp made the motion to approve the conditional use permit for the gas plant, following most of the planning staff recommendations.
He had some questions, however, about the recommendations for the road, which belongs to the township.
“Does it make sense to pave it if it’s going to get torn up to bring it to county standards?” he asked.
The general approach has been to have companies bring roads to county standards through their property, with a transition zone of about 100 feet past the property.
“That seems like a lot to put on this company,” Commissioner Cory Hanson said. “There are other companies out there. I don’t know if it is right to put the burden on one company.”
He added that the area was zoned for this use, and that it is where the county asked companies to put such developments.
Martin replied that the company is willing to pave the road in proportion to their use.
“The township should be able to take care of half a mile of road,” Commissioner Barry Ramberg said. “It shouldn’t be in the condition it is.”
Commissioner Anderson said he’d prefer to see the permit go back to planning and zoning for more support, and to let them hash out the conditions, after which a roll call vote was taken.
Four people were injured Monday, July 1, when they were attacked by dogs near Rickard Elementary, according to the Williston police.
Two adults and two juveniles were hurt in the attack, which happened around 3:45 p.m. A person called the police to report that the four were injured when they were bitten by a group of dogs, Sgt. Detective Danielle Hendricks wrote in a news release on Tuesday.
No information was available Tuesday about the condition of those hurt or about how many animals were involved.
After an investigation, police charged Jason Larson with multiple violations, according to Hendricks.
He was charged with five counts each of having a pitbull within city limits and of having an animal with no rabies vaccine.
He was also charged with one count each of running a kennel without a license and of having a vicious animal.
Williston prohibits five breeds of dog: Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or any dog of mixed terrier breed.
A recently updated ordinance also limits the number of animals a person can own.
There is a limit of three dogs and three cats per home in the city.
While fireworks are for sale all around Williston, there are still restrictions on when people can set them off inside city limits.
Williston ordinances allow fireworks twice a year — from midnight on July 4 to 1 a.m. on July 5 and from midnight on Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.
There are two chances to see professional fireworks displays this week. On Wednesday, July 3, there will be fireworks after the races at the Williston Basin Speedway. On Thursday, July 4, there will be a display at the Upper Missouri Valley Fairgrounds.
The Williston Police Department discovered a body Tuesday, July 2, while using search dogs to try and find a man who was last seen in August 2018.
The body was found in the 10 block of Second Avenue East in Williston. The remains have not been identified and in a news release, Sgt. Detective Danielle Hendricks wrote that it was too early to determine whether the body was that of Thomas LaPierre.
LaPierre was reported missing by his family on June 18. He was last seen in Williston in August 2018. The human remains found weren’t identifiable, and police weren’t able to determine a cause of death on Tuesday, Hendricks told the Williston Herald. The body is being sent to Bismarck for an autopsy by the State Medical Examiner.
Hendricks said is wasn’t clear how long the body had been where it was found.
MHA Drug Enforcement, the Williams County Sheriff’s Office and the Williston Fire Department all assisted with the search.
A fire Monday, July 1, at a salt water disposal site in McKenzie County caused thousands of barrels of brine and dozens of barrels of oils to spill.
The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division was notified of a release occurring Monday at the Carl Spackler SWD 1 salt water disposal, about 10 miles south of Alexander, according to a news release.
Dakota Fluid Solutions Inc reported Tuesday that a fire occurred on location causing 4,424 barrels of brine and 138 barrels of oil to be released.