Oil boom in North Dakota overwhelming rural towns



Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter


Posted on November 9, 2011 at 9:08 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 9 at 9:21 AM

WALTFORD CITY, North Dakota - Need work? Don't mind the bone-chilling cold? Try North Dakota.

There's a massive oil boom going on up there and they simply can't find enough workers to fill all the jobs.

The North Dakota oil and gas industry says the state is on pace to be become the number two oil producing state in America, second only to Texas. But, things have grown so fast in such a short period of time, they are starting to have problems they have never seen before, like traffic jams.  

At one intersection in Watford City, semis loaded with heavy drilling equipment can wait up to 45 minutes to make a left-hand turn.

"The area will never be the same,” said longtime resident Loren Berwald,

It's just one sign of the incredible oil boom driving huge profits, but also crushing the rural infrastructure. Two-hundred new wells are being drilled at one time.

 "We have created 30,000 jobs in Western North Dakota,” said Ron Ness, with North Dakota Petroleum Council.

Many of the workers live in trailer villages called "man camps." They buy meals from well-stocked convenience stores that have become overrun, quickly making a sandwich an endangered species.

It's a tough life away from family for the workers, who can pull in six figures working long hours.

"We're working extremely fast,” said Dick Vandebossche, director of operations for OneOK, a company building more than $1.5 billion worth of pipelines and gas processing plants

They can also pull down sexually transmitted diseases, which are on the rise, along with arrests for DUI and assault.

But, it's the traffic that really has the locals worried. The heavy rigs clog up the two-lane roads, which leads to weekly wrecks and a spike in fatalities from drivers trying to pass.        

"I used to describe this country as anybody within 50 miles was my neighbor and I know 80 percent of them, now I don't know hardly anyone,” Berwald said.

It's estimated there are 20,000 jobs available in North Dakota, which means there’s no recession there. Even at the local McDonald's, the starting pay begins at $15.