Senator Kent Conrad received an update today from Williston city and business leaders on the opportunities and challenges confronting the area in the face of unprecedented activity caused by the oil boom in the Bakken Shale.
"The oil find has been a blessing for North Dakota. But these benefits will only continue if we act in a diligent, responsible manner," Senator Conrad said. "That means even greater attention must be paid to area infrastructure needs, as well as additional resources to meeting the increasing burden on educators, law enforcement and health care professionals. And while we enjoy the spoils of the oil boom, we must not lose track of all that made western North Dakota special before anyone knew what the Bakken Formation was."
Chief among the concerns raised by Williston city leaders is the continued dearth of housing, particularly affordable housing for the area's middle income families. Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said that only 10 percent of the areas low-to-moderate income housing needs are currently being met.
While efforts from private investors and some federal and state government support have eased the burden, Senator Conrad said a significant challenge still remains.
The Williston Economic Development Board laid out additional needs of the city for Senator Conrad, ranging from a truck bypass to increase safety and ease congestion for area commuters, to the desperate need for a new airport to meet the demands of the booming populace. Additionally, Senator Conrad agreed with the consensus that the city was badly in need of a new waste water treatment plant.
"Williston has a chance to be one of America's next great success stories," Senator Conrad said. "But only if responsible choices and needed investments are made. I'm optimistic that the best is yet to come for the people of Williston."