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Posted 6/30/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

What is Watford City and the surrounding area going to look like five to 10 years from now? What will our population be? And where will the new housing and commercial development occur? And more importantly, does Watford City have the necessary infrastructure, such as water and sewer, to handle the increased growth that is potentially coming with all of this new development? Does the city need to acquire property through annexation in order to be able to deliver needed city water and sewer services? Does the city need to establish extraterritorial areas beyond the city limits in order to ensure that conflicting use patterns don’t occur?
In light of all of the new housing developments, industrial parks and other developments being proposed in and around the Watford City area, these are some good questions that need to be asked and answered right now.
Watford City, like so many other communities in western North Dakota, is reeling from the rapid explosion in new people, new business and new homes that keep moving into our area as a result of the development of the oil and natural gas reserves in the Bakken and Three Forks formations. The growth in jobs and business is good and is welcomed. But uncontrolled and unplanned growth is not good.
Rural communities and counties just don’t have the planning expertise readily available to them to help guide or plan for sudden growth. And that is why boom towns aren’t always the prettiest of communities to visit or to live in.
But what would happen if small towns like Watford City, Stanley, Tioga and New Town had the opportunity to evaluate what kind of infrastructure they have in place and what they need to have as a community to properly meet the needs for growth in an orderly process? Would proper planning make a difference?
The North Dakota Department of Commerce thinks so. And so does the McKenzie County Commission and the Watford City City Council.
That is why the city and the county, with the assistance of a $25,000 Department of Commerce grant, have decided to move forward with funding an extensive study of the city’s infrastructure system. Armed with the results of this study, which will be completed over the next 90 days, the answers to the questions that have perplexed city and county officials will be known and planning work can move forward.
Everyone wants to see Watford City and the surrounding area grow and develop. But we need the growth to be sensible and positive. And in order to accomplish that, the growth has to be planned. It sounds simple, but until the city knows what it can and cannot provide, good growth cannot happen.