Problems Surrounding the Oil-Boom in Northwestern North Dakota
The recent population surge is resulting in major issues in the Williston area. Workers are arriving faster than they can be accommodated. The lack of local housing has forced oil-field employees to set up “man camps” where they live in recreational vehicles. Many established residents view such settlements with alarm. As a result, the Williston City Commission has recently “introduced an ordinance that would make it illegal to live in a camper within city boundaries. If passed, the law would make living in a home on wheels a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.” Many workers stay in Williston during the work week only, returning home during their off periods. As a result, Williston’s train station is now the fastest-growing Amtrak depot in the country: “The once-sleepy little train station in western North Dakota where the sole ticket agent knew passengers by name is now overflowing with oil workers.”
The booming economy of the region demands other forms of infrastructural investment as well. Communications demands were recently addressed when Midcontinent Communications announced a $3 million plan to extend its fiber optic network to Williston, promising rapid, broadband internet connections.
Rapid growth is also resulting in a crime surge. Although North Dakota still has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, the Williston area is no longer particularly safe. According to a recent article in Boston.com, “Booming oil production in the Northern Plains is spurring law enforcement from the U.S. and Canada to gird for a spike in crimes ranging from drug trafficking to prostitution.”
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