April 23, 2010

Measuring the impact of oil

Measuring the impact of oil
Landowners Association gets birds eye view

By MARVIN BAKER
EDITOR

As environmental impact continues to expand with the oil industry, a local organization took its first step Monday in recording that impact as it intensifies on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Representatives from the Landowners Association of Fort Berthold hopped flights Monday morning to see first hand what the oil industry is doing to the reservation.
Theodora Bird Bear, Mandaree and Bobbi Larson, Parshall, flew on separate flights with Chris Boyer, a Bozeman, Mont., pilot who volunteers for LightHawk, a Lander, Wyo., organization whose main goal is environmental protection.
Joining Larson was District 4 Representative Kenton Onstad, also of Parshall, while the New Town News and Mountrail County Record flew on the initial flight with Bird Bear.
The flights originated in Stanley, took a south, southwesterly direction to the Mandaree area, went east toward Parshall and back to Stanley.
Bird Bear said an area northeast of Mandaree is the next spot for oil activity and she wanted to photograph a peninsula along Lake Sakakawea before any drilling takes place there.
“Hopefully, we can get enough photos to show what the land looks like before development,” Bird Bear said. “Since Mandaree is the hot spot and I live in Mandaree, I’m concerned about air, land and water.”
She said 180 applications for permits to drill on the reservation have been submitted and the Bureau of Land Management has approved 113. In addition, 531 permits to survey were turned in by April 1.
To Bird Bear, that means the activity is going to increase significantly in the coming months. She said issues have already developed with 49 wells pumping and 13 currently being drilled.
“I understand it’s going to be 100 wells a year for 5 years,” Bird Bear said. “That’s going to have a cumulative impact on air, land and water.”
Boyer, who said he flies for land management and community issues, didn’t have an agenda, but rather wanted the locals to see a unique perspective on oil development.
He said he has flown over and photographed oil fields in New Mexico and Wyoming and took a close look at the Bakken formation during a solo flight Sunday.
“It appears cleaner than the oil fields in Wyoming and New Mexico,” Boyer said. “Down there, they’ll just plow through sage brush. Here, it appears there’s some structure to it.”
Onstad is worried about potential fallout from drilling for oil under Lake Sakakawea. As of yet, there is no known activity directly under the big lake as it meanders through the reservation.
 


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