Before it would proceed with studies for the second half of Williston’s truck reliever route, the North Dakota Department of Transportation required Williams County and Williston to sign an agreement that neither would permit new developments within the study corridor for 10 years.

However, the Williams County Commission learned during Tuesday’s meeting that an oil well has sprung up in area. How that happened is uncertain.

Katie Haarsager, spokesperson for the Oil and Gas Division, told the Williston Herald she would look into what happened there. We also have a request in with the Department of Transportation for more about how this happened.

The situation came to light during discussion of a state request to re-affirm that Williams County and Williston still support completion of the truck reliever route before the state finishes all the necessary environmental, cultural resources, and other analyses that will be required to move ahead on the project.

The northeast reliever route is the second half of a project proposed to reduce heavy truck traffic in Williston. The plan is to connect the northwest truck reliever route, which starts from U.S. 2/85, with North Dakota 1804 on the east side of Williston.

DOT presented three options. The county’s preferred route cuts through Stony Creek and Pherrin townships, mostly in Williams County, though a small portion is also in Williston’s extra-territorial jurisdiction. The exact route chosen will ultimately be decided on a number of factors, DOT officials told the Williston Herald in 2017, including findings of an environmental assessment, and a search for culturally significant artifacts.

Joe Wilt, with the Williston District for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, told commissioners that DOT has already spoken with the Federal Highway Administration about the oil well, and that the federal entity is OK with the route moving slightly.

The change won’t mean the entire ongoing study has to change significantly at this point, Wilt said.

Commissioner David Montgomery indicated puzzlement with the state’s request, given that the county already signed a 10-year agreement committing to the study corridor, and nothing has significantly changed since then.

Commissioner Beau Anderson, meanwhile, said he’s still on board, but hopes concerns brought up in public meetings about the route will get taken seriously.

“There were a lot of good points brought up in those meetings that need to be considered,” he said.

Anderson was also expressed frustration that an oil well is being allowed to stand in the preferred route.

“I feel if I would have built my house there the state would say tear the damn thing down,” he said. “So to me, it’s like tear down the damn oil well, because that’s where we were planning to build our road. Because if it was a house, that’s what would be said, but that’s just my opinion.”

Chairman of the Board Steve Kemp said that Williams County’s Planning and Zoning has been adhering to the requirements of the agreement, and that to his knowledge no houses or other new structures have been permitted by the county in the area.

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