BEWARE the oil boom. Real estate prices go through the roof, pipelines begin to dot the landscape and scams, residential complaints and crime become commonplace in what were quiet communities.
Examples of the downside to booming growth currently can be seen in eastern Montana and North Dakota, areas in the middle of the biggest boom they have seen in decades.
The on-going development of the Bakken oil fields has created tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the small towns scattered across the area.
Some areas in North Dakota have reportedly seen their population jump by an estimated 13 percent in one recent year. In another community in the center of the boom there are stories of nine job openings for every resident looking for work.
However, there is a dark side to all of the growth. For example, according to a recent report in the Missoulian, drug related crimes in eastern Montana have more than doubled, assaults in Dickinson, ND have increased by 500 percent and residents in the small town of Sidney, Montana remain reeling after a school teacher there was kidnapped and killed. Prostitution has become a problem in communities that can't remember the last time a hooker walked their streets and strip clubs are flourishing.
The growth also has overloaded existing housing opportunities to the point new residents are oftentimes forced to live in "man camps," camp in parking lots or, when lucky enough, paying rent similar to what is found in large metropolitan areas. Other workers fall victim to housing scams.
Local infrastructure also is being stressed. An article in Governing reports that one North Dakota city has identified nearly $100 million in improvements needed that are related to the boom. Those improvements include a new truck bypass, fire substation, upgrading the water treatment plant and additional law enforcement and emergency responder personnel.
With up to another 30,000 workers expected to move into the area within the next few years, officials are gearing up to handle the continued stresses on their communities. This week, federal agents, sheriffs and police are meeting for two days to develop a strategy for the increased crime, the Missoulian reported. Already state and federal law enforcement agencies have hired additional personnel to address the rising crime rates.
The companies also are working to control the crime that comes with all of the new workers they are drawing onto the area. Most of them require background checks and drug checks before hiring someone.
Workers with the U.S. Geological Survey estimate the fields hold more than 4 billion barrels of crude oil and that the boom could last for another decade. it may even go on for longer than that. Oil officials say there may be as much as 20 billion barrels that can be extracted using new drilling technology. The deposit probably is the largest in the lower 48 states.
Already there are something more than 6,000 wells drilled just in North Dakota and up to another 20,000 wells could be drilled within the next couple of decades, according to this article.
The first well to tap the deposit was drilled during the 1950s. But new technology and high process for crude oil have sparked the recent drilling.