Public hearings are being held this week to discuss a new bridge to cross the Little Missouri River, but private land will have to be used to construct the bridge, and some private landowners want no part of it.
Sand Short and her family have owned their ranch North of Medora for more than 100 years, and they are fine with a river running through it, but a not a bridge.
“We don’t need it out here. There is too much public land that could be used rather than our private land, ” said Sandy Short, private land owner in Billings County.
Billings County, the Federal Highway Administration, and the North Dakota Department of Transportation want to construct a 600 foot bridge and two miles of new roadways to connect Belle Lake Road to East River Road.
In the draft Environmental Impact Statement it is referred to as Alternative K, Option 1 (the preferred alternative), and the project would involve acquiring 62 acres of private land.
Sandy Short said that about 50 percent of it would fall on her land, and she has no interest in selling.
KLJ Engineering is hosting the public hearings, and they said a couple of reasons the preferred alternative was chosen was because it had the lowest cost of all the alternatives at $11.2 million, and it required the least amount of ground disruption the the natural environment.
During the Public meeting on Monday in Medora, Billings County Officials said they need another bridge for emergency services.
Current crossings in the Billings and Golden Valley County area are the Long X Bridge on Highway 85 near Watford City, and the I-94 bridges( one eastbound and westbound) in Medora .
The bridges are nearly 70 miles apart with 18 unimproved private fords and one unimproved public ford between between them.
People use the fords to cross the rivers, but they can be “unreliable because of seasonal conditions” according to the environment impact statement, and county officials feel they propose a safety risk to people who try to use then to cross the river during undesirable weather conditions.
“I can appreciate the argument, but I think there is a difference between a want and a need, ” said Jay Obrigewitch.
Obrigewitch has been renting land from the Short family for his cattle operation for more than 30 years, and he said he has a hard time buying into the argument that the bridge would be useful for emergency services, because there are only a few families that still live along the river.
“There is only three or four families that live between here(Short Ranch) and Theodore Roosevelt National Park year round”.
Sandy Short and her family think there is another reason for the project.
“It would be to ultimately service the oil industry, ” said Suzi Williams of the Short Family.
Sandy Short thinks there would be about a “100 oil trucks coming through a day” if the bridge was built, creating traffic hazards along her family road (Short Road).
Obrigewitch said the dust kick up from the trucks would also disturb his cattle operation.
The Short family and other landowners at the public hearing on Monday wonder if eminent domain will be enacted if they refuse to sell their land, but for now she plans on attending the public hearings so others know how she and other landowners feel.
A Public Hearing will be held Thursday in Bismarck at the Courtyard by Marriott at 5 p.m. Central time.