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Pipeline perks up Emmons County

Badger Bay Campground

Dakota Access Pipeline workers fill the Badger Bay Campground on Highway 1804, overlooking the Lake Oahe-Missouri River system. The workers will be in the area for months, until the work moves on to another location.

EMMONS COUNTY — Grocer Todd Mulske in Linton says he’s having trouble keeping steaks in the cooler and potato chips on the shelf.

He owns the Linton Food Center and like everyone in the area, he has been noticing the new people in town: welders, excavators and pipeline workers of all stripes. Many show up in the store at about 5 to 6 p.m., looking for something to throw on the grill for supper and pack in the lunchbox for the next day’s work.

“Right now, we’re trying to keep up,” Mulske said. “The store’s been crazy.”

That’s a good kind of crazy in his opinion, to have hundreds of workers with the Dakota Access Pipeline living in the area, shopping at local stores like his and filling rental units.

Emmons County gets some buzz from the river fishing and camping folks, but it’s an agrarian county and large-scale industrial projects are mostly far off the county’s economic map.

“I haven’t seen this before,” Mulske said.

Joy Bosch, Linton's deputy auditor, said the office phone has been buzzing with calls from people looking for where to live and stay while the work is in the area. She said her office can pass along phone numbers, but, right now, every nook, cranny and campground is pretty much filled.

“There are `No vacancies' out there," Bosch said.

It’s hard to know exactly how many workers are in the county, but it’s several hundred, for sure.

Lisa Dillinger, pipeline spokeswoman, said the company will employ about 4,000 union workers in each of the four states where the pipeline is being built. A spread, a specific construction segment such as the one in Emmons County, requires about 600 to 800 workers, Dillinger said.

Work on the Dakota Access Pipeline started at the edge of Lake Oahe-Missouri River and is moving east-southeast and will exit Emmons County south of Hague into South Dakota. The 1,160-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline will carry as many as 570,000 barrels daily of Bakken crude from Williams County to Illinois.

The project does not yet have an easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to come across the water and faces opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the opposite bank, where a protest spirit camp has been occupied for months. The camp is distantly visible from where pipeline construction is ongoing. The corps says the pipeline’s easement application is still under review.

Pipeline workers will be in Emmons County into the fall, depending on how fast construction moves and how far they’re willing to drive to catch up to their crew.

Tiffany Heer, owner of Bayside Resort, a busy campground, store and restaurant just a few miles south of the pipeline route, said she’s got 55 pipeline workers living in campers there.

Heer said she’s kept some spots available for locals who like to camp near the water and she’s putting in 18-hour days to keep up, putting out food until late and out of bed before sunrise to open the store and restaurant.

“I like the energy that’s coming with the pipeline. It’s such a nice thing to see happen to our local community,” she said.

Heer’s husband, a welder, got on with the pipeline, and she’s familiar with the pipeline life.

“I know how their life is on the pipeline. For our family, it’s been our living,” she said.

It’s a living for Erica Haverty, who’s in a camper just up the road at Badger Bay Campground, with her husband, Joey Haverty, a laborer on a pipeline tie-in crew. They last worked in North Carolina.

They landed a nice spot in the campground, on the far end overlooking where the creek winds through a gentle draw down to the lake. She says her husband works long days on the pipeline and she occupies herself with the domestic side that makes their life on the road run smoothly. She takes the two dogs down to the water every day, shops, cooks and does laundry and says being set up in such a beautiful place is her ideal situation.

They have bonfires on Saturday night with a few folks around and make the most of a simple, but hard-working life on the road.

“We’re hearing we’ll be here until October, but pipeline life can change quickly,” she said. She’s in no hurry to go, though.

“The people are so friendly out here,” she said.

(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.)

“I like the energy that’s coming with the pipeline. It’s such a nice thing to see happen to our local community."

-- Tiffany Heer, owner of Bayside Resort

Tiffany Heer
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