News stories about a new bridge planned in Billings County that will cross the Little Missouri River might leave readers on the fence about its necessity.
Please understand: The bridge is necessary and the hearing held in Medora showed strong support by the citizens of the county.
Today, Billings County is essentially cut in half by the Little Missouri River and nearly 50 miles as the crow flies separate the bridges located at Medora and the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The private crossings in between are often unreliable, unsafe and unavailable to the public.
It is a lack of infrastructure issue that harms our local economy and severely impacts our emergency response. Our sheriff's deputies, ambulances and rural firefighters are forced to drive an hour or more to reach the other side of the river. That's not a situation anyone would accept for an emergency at their home or land.
Opposition has largely come from outside the county. They call it an unnecessary impact to the Badlands experience, a manufactured, political message meant to block development and keep everyday people off public lands. Clearly, roads enable access to public lands and adding a single bridge in a 50-mile stretch will help, not harm, anyone's Badlands experience.
The bridge has been studied for more than a decade. County leaders attempted to minimize private property usage, but the federal government refused to provide the necessary land. More importantly, the studies show little environmental impact and that the primary use of the bridge would be for recreational use, that is, tourists, bikers, hikers and hunters to the Badlands. These users gain a new access point to incredible country not reasonably reachable today.
Few projects offer such a benefit to both local citizens and the national public.
Lester Iverson, Fairfield