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Rains force county to close roads to truck traffic

Posted 10/16/13 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Taking care of McKenzie County’s roads has become an increasing concern for the McKenzie County Commissioners, especially since the county pays millions each year to repair damages made to county roads by heavy oilfield truck traffic.
That is why, following the heavy rains last Friday, the McKenzie County Commissioners decided to enforce a load restriction on county roads until the rains had stopped and the roads were deemed suitable for heavier traffic.
According to Ron Anderson, McKenzie County commissioner, a slow rain, like last Friday’s, damages the county roads. And damaged county roads are not only unsafe, they are becoming expensive to repair.
“Too much rain can cause the roads to get sloppy and soft. And it becomes a safety issue” states Jerry Samuelson, McKenzie County Emergency manager. “We have even had people go into the ditch. The point is to save our county’s roads, but we are trying to avoid accidents as well.”
Anderson states that he had met with oil companies recently at which time he gave a presentation about the county’s road problems. He talked with them about how expensive the county roads are to repair each year and how much damage can occur when heavy traffic is present on soft roadways. He also talked with them about the fact that damaged roads are not good for county residents, much as they are not good for the oil industry.
“They were not as opposed as they could have been to the idea of road limits when the ground is soft,” states Anderson. “But they requested that we divide the county into zones, because McKenzie County covers a large area. It could be raining near Sidney and roads in the Keene area would not be affected.”
Though the commissioners agreed into dividing the county into four zones for emergency management purposes, on Friday, Oct. 11, when 1½ inches of rainfall had accumulated by 4 p.m. and the rain was still falling, the county decided to restrict all zones.
Every county road in McKenzie County was restricted to a six-ton gross limit, or 12,000 pounds total load capacity. That restriction was kept in place until Saturday at noon. But according to Samuelson, that was too soon for the roads to completely dry out, especially since it began raining again in McKenzie County early Monday morning.
“We reinstated the load restriction for all zones in McKenzie County on Monday at 7:30 a.m. because the roads were still in bad shape,” states Samuelson. “Some school bus drivers called and said they could not get through to pick up some of the students on their routes.”
All-in-all, it began raining late on Thursday night with the rains continuing throughout Friday and into the early morning on Saturday. Samuelson states that he heard reports of as much as three inches of rainfall in the Grassy Butte area, which is why when the rain began again early Monday morning, the county closed the roads to heavy truck traffic again.
“It just does not look good,” states Samuelson. “It does not look like we will be able to get these roads to dry out in one day.”
According to Samuelson, the county commissioners were going to reevaluate the road situation on Tuesday. But whether or not the commissioners decide to lift the restrictions depends on the road conditions after the rains end.