Plan looks for sustainable path for the Bakken
By Jerry W. Kram
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories on the VisionWest ND Regional Plan that was released earlier this summer.
It’s been a long but productive two years for Shirley Brentup. Brentup is the Executive Director of VisionWest ND, a consortium of city, county and tribal governments, state agencies, concerned citizens and policy analysts who came together to help oil and gas impacted counties figure out how to cope with the impacts of the oil boom that has gripped Western North Dakota.
The crowning achievement of organization was the creation of its "Regional Plan for Sustainable Development" that outlines six priority policy areas and recommendations for legislators and policy makers to help the region cope with the impacts of the boom. The plan was released earlier this summer in Stanley, marking a transition for the organization from a research and planning mission to one of implementation.
The group has also worked with 18 counties and four segments of the Fort Berthold Reservation to create local development plans.
"Those county plans laid a lot of the groundwork for the regional plan," Brentup said. "There were about 60 people interviewed in different agencies and organizations. Plus we have had meeting with our consortium meetings and experts on different parts of the plans."
The Regional Plan outlines 17 issue areas with dozens of recommendations to help communities cope with the impacts of growth and prepare for future growth. Brentup said five of those areas were identified as top priorities at nearly every meeting the consortium held in the 19 counties and Fort Berthold Reservation. Those priorities were housing, transportation, emergency services, child care and water. One other priority was added, creating a long term forum for the consortium members to help press for the implementation of the recommendations in the plan.