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MHA Nation Requests Oil Companies Help Repair Reservation Roads

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The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation is working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to request several oil companies sign a cooperative agreement to help repair damaged roads on its Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Oil and gas production has caused increased traffic, resulting in one road with over 80 potholes, BIA 12, which runs along 22 oil-producing wells and is slated for even more development in the next few years. "The ultimate goal is that the oil companies will contribute to the cost of repairing and maintaining the roads that they use," Chairman Tex Hall said at a reservation roads meeting, reported The Minot Daily News.

Hall previously proposed increasing the tribes' cut of oil tax revenues to care for the tribe's roads. “This is not a windfall, this is not a profit thing,” Hall said during a February 4 hearing with North Dakota Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, reported the Associated Press’ Dale Wetzel. “This is for our government, to build its roads, its health care and its infrastructure. If we don’t have the necessary monies, this will slow (oil production) down. We cannot be overrun. Our people’s safety and health come first.”

The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation sits on top of the Bakken shale rock formation, the epicenter of the oil-drilling hot spot in western North Dakota. About 350,000 barrels of crude oil pump out of North Dakota daily, Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, told James MacPherson ofthe Associated Press. In 2010, the state was on track to yield about 110 million barrels—a nearly 28 percent increase from 79.7 million in 2009. “We are now looking at the possibility of 700,000 barrels a day and we see that coming in the next four to seven years,” Helms told the AP. That surplus may also come from the 2,000 new wells expected to be drilled in 2011, doubling the number of Bakken and Three Forks wells, according to estimates by Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, and Helms.

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