Written by John Plestina
Celebrating 20 years since its inception, Great Northern Development Corporation touted its advancements and recent accomplishments during GNDC’s annual meeting at the Wolf Point Golf Course, Friday, July 18.
Executive director Martin DeWitt said GNDC was notified during late May that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields program awarded $600,000 for Brownfields assessments for environmental cleanups on behalf of the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition’s 15-county area.
GNDC is working with several governmental and private entities for environmental cleanups through the Brownfields Program, including the city of Wolf Point to clean up the former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance in downtown Wolf Point, that was destroyed by fire in March.
“We’ve also been working a lot with Wolf Point Green,” DeWitt said.
Wolf Point Green purchased the former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point in 2011, after GNDC approached the owners about cleanup and development of the former refinery, now closed nearly 30 years. Wolf Point Green wants to develop the site for the proposed Fort Peck Clean Energy Campus that could include a new oil refinery, rail terminal, wind farm, and solar and geothermal energy production. There are also long-range plans that include greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site and a commercial fish farm.
A likely Brownfields program site, about $30 million would need to be funded to cleanup an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared the former Kenco refinery a Superfund cleanup site in 1997.
“Martin [DeWitt] and his group [GNDC] reached out to us in 2011. He suggested we take a look at the refinery,” Ken Elliott, a partner in Wolf Point Green, told the annual meeting.
“I met with the EPA a couple of weeks ago in Denver,” Elliott said.
He said he told EPA officials what his plans are for the 110-acre site.
“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 jobs that will be created with this,” Elliott said.
He said a million barrels of oil a day reflects about 50 percent of what is in the ground.
“Everybody in this part of the state knows what it’s like in North Dakota. It’s a disaster,” Elliott said.
He said eastern Montana could get ahead of it with new infrastructure, housing and schools.
“We work all over the country. The county commissioners here have been great,” Elliott said.
He added that Fort Peck Tribes officials have been good to work with.
In other business, DeWitt told the annual meeting that he was in Cul-
bertson in April when Gov. Steve Bullock announced that he would propose a $45 million grant funding bill to the 2015 Legislature to finance infrastructure improvements and expansions for Bakken Oilfield development impacted local and tribal governments, and water and sewer districts.
“One of the plus things that came out of that announcement was reducing the revolving fund,” DeWitt said.
Bullock proposed reducing the state Revolving Fund interest rate from 3 percent to 1.25 percent.
A man from Bainville said, “They could probably use all of that $45 million in Bainville.”
In other business, the board approved the $1.114 million GNDC budget for the next fiscal year.
Officers were reelected for another term. They are: president, Connie Eissinger; first vice president, Richard Kerstein; second vice president, Duane Kurokawa; and secretary/treasurer, Frank French.
The United States Economic Development Administration and the state of Montana have certified GNDC as a nonprofit regional development corporation that serves a six-county economic development district, consisting of Roosevelt, McCone, Valley, Daniels, Sheridan and Garfield counties. The Fort Peck Tribes is also a member.
GNDC was incorporated in October 1995 and has remained in continuous operation. Garfield County was included in GNDC later than the other five counties.