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Katherine Lymn, Forum News Service, Published October 03 2013

Dunn County, oil companies seek better communication on road shutdowns

DICKINSON, N.D. - Dunn County commissioners on Wednesday told oil company representatives they all need better plans in place for shutting down a road in case of a heavy rainstorm that could cause serious damage.

Commissioners asked companies OXY and Marathon Oil who they could reach quickly in the case of having to temporarily shut down a road.

“Those roads get so torn up and we know you guys are stretched with trying to keep roads up,” Commissioner Donna Scott said, “but on the same token, we need something. It’s a whole lot easier to have it prevented than have (roads) torn up.”

Rain softens dirt and gravel road surfaces, said McKenzie County engineer Mike Dollinger.

Add trucks to a heavy rainstorm, and “they’ll just turn the road into soup, just Jello,” he said.

So to prevent permanent and extreme damage to the roads, counties will shut them down for varied lengths of time to allow the road to stabilize.

Fracking operations, including some planned for Dunn County, require hundreds of truckloads of water.

“The truck traffic is tremendous, guys,” Commissioner Daryl Dukart said to representatives of OXY USA.

Rory Nelson, a state energy impact coordinator who attended the meeting, said the North Dakota Petroleum Council compiled all the producers’ names in a list for McKenzie County to have on hand.

“It works pretty good for McKenzie,” he told commissioners.

OXY’s Del Oliver referenced a “mishap” from last year but assured commissioners the company will do better.

“There’s been a new direction with our company where people do understand that there could be a time when we have to shut down,” he said. “How well they’ll take that, I don’t know.”

Dollinger said McKenzie County gets the most flak about road shutdowns from independent truckers who, when not working, aren’t paid.

He said the county uses the radio and a website alert to get the word out about a closed road.

“When it starts raining the phone starts ringing,” he said, “and word spreads like wildfire.”