Written by John Plestina
A recently publicized and previously unreported federal report underscores public safety risks from oil trains that pass through many communities including Wolf Point, Poplar, Culbertson and Bainville.
The analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation of risks associated with moving large quantities of crude oil or ethanol across the nation predicted 15 derailments of tanker trains in 2015 and an average of 10 each year over the coming 20 years. The analysis also predicts the possibility of large numbers of fatalities if accidents occurred in populated areas and more than $4 billion in damages.
The federal analysis was completed in July 2014.
“Actually [the oil trains] scare me,” Roosevelt County’s Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator Dan Sietsema said.
“If one of them exploded within the city limits [of Wolf Point], the isolation area is one-half mile. I’m not sure how much destruction there would be from the explosion. Several blocks at least. It would be at least half the town that would be impacted and our business district is downtown and along the railroad tracks,” he said.
“We’re in the process of developing an exercise for the emergency responders” Sietsema said.
There have been at least 21 accidents involving oil train trains in the United States and Canada since 2006 that resulted in either derailment, fire or significant fuel spills, or all three. Thirty-three ethanol train accidents were reported during the same nine-year period.
About half of those trains were hauling crude oil from the Bakken region including two that were involved in accidents this month. Nineteen tanker cars of a CSX train derailed in a rural area of West Virginia Monday, Feb. 16, causing a fire that destroyed one home, injured one person, spilled more than 3 million gallons of crude into a tributary of the Kanawha River and burned for several days forcing the evacuation of several hundred people. The train had just passed through a town with a population of about 2,000.
Twenty-nine tanker cars on a Canadian National Railway train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in a rural area in Ontario, Saturday, Feb. 14, resulting in a fire and oil spill.
In July 2013, 72 cars from a train carrying 1.9 million gallons of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in eastern Canada derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and ravaging about a square mile of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, located about 10 miles from the U.S. border.
Trains hauling Bakken crude oil have also been involved in major accidents in North Dakota, Alabama, Oklahoma and Virginia.
According to reports, rail shipments of crude oil have increased from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to more than 435,000 in 2013, driven by the Bakken boom in North Dakota and Montana.
Limited pipeline capacity forces about 70 percent of crude oil to reach refineries by rail, according to American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
Written by John Plestina
Authorities are hoping that DNA testing of skeletal remains of an adult male found north of Wolf Point might solve one of two missing person cold cases from the last six years.
Roderick Red Star of Poplar has been missing nearly six years and Nicole “Nicky” Waller of Kalispell disappeared on Valentines Day 2013.
Red Star was 20 years old when he was last seen walking on Wolf Creek Road about 10 miles north of Wolf Point during the early morning hours of March 14, 2009.
The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice, Fort Peck Tribes Fish and Game, and numerous volunteers searched an area of about 250 square miles by plane, four-wheelers, on foot and with dogs.
It was unknown what might have happened to Red Star until a farmer north of Wolf Point found skeletal remains and clothing on his property during September 2013. There was no wallet or identification.
The bones were sent to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula and teeth were recently sent to the DNA research facility at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas, in an attempt to obtain a positive identification.
“We think it is [Red Star]. There was clothing and a skeleton,” Roosevelt County Undersheriff John Summers said.
“We sent the bones to the state crime lab and their plan was to extract DNA from the bones and from a living relative,” he said.
The crime lab was unable to obtain adequate DNA for an identification.
“It’s suspected, but you have to be 100 percent sure,” Summers said.
“As an investigator, I can say that the bones we found are the bones of Roderick Red Star. Capping that off would be the positive results of the DNA compared to his siblings,” FPTDLJ supervisory criminal investigator Ken Trottier said.
“The clothing that surrounded the bones matched the description that family of Roderick Red Star said he was wearing,” he said.
“The bones were sent to the Montana State Crime Lab. It was determined that foul play was not suspected,” Trottier said.
The process could take some time, he said.
Waller was 32 years old when she disappeared and her vehicle was found in Roosevelt County Feb. 14, 2013.
Her maroon 1999 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer Edition SUV was found abandoned on the shoulder of the westbound lane of U.S. Hwy. 2 west of Poplar. Authorities found Waller’s belongings and pet guinea pigs inside the vehicle that belonged to Waller’s three children.
The FPTDLJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation processed the vehicle for evidence.
“We confirmed that the vehicle was brought here by someone other than Nicole Waller,” Trottier said. “We don’t believe for a minute she was ever on the reservation.”
He said he cannot say more about the investigation or suspects.
“Waller is basically a Fairview/Sidney case,” Trottier said.
Waller’s disappearance followed what other media has reported as an extended visit with her boyfriend in Fairview.
It has also been reported that Waller’s disappearance has been investigated as a possible homicide.
“We haven’t heard anything,” Summers said.
“We were kind of heighten [in February 2013] in case she wandered off and froze,” he said. “We were hoping somebody would call in.”
The FBI assisted local investigators with the case for about eight months, but turned it over to the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation at the end of October.
Friends of Waller posted a Facebook page dedicated to finding her at www.facebook.com/FindNicoleWaller. The page has more than 2,950 followers.
(Editor’s Note: The Herald-News and other newspapers have published a telephone number for Montana DCI in Helena where information about Waller’s disappearance could be provided. Attempts to call that number last week resulted in a quagmire of automated lines and voice mail with no returned telephone calls. Information about the disappearances of Waller or Red Star could be given to the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office at 653-6216 or the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice at 768-5332.)
Written by John Plestina
After four years operating the Wolf Point Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Robin Jordan will soon move out of the area to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Jordan said she will close her office in the GNDC building on Cascade Street on or shortly after Tuesday, March 2.
As was the case before Jordan opened the Wolf Point clinic, there will be no veterinarian within about 50 miles. There are veterinarians in Circle, Glasgow, Homestead, Plentywood and
A veterinarian in Homestead in Sheridan County, some 75 miles from Wolf Point, is purchasing some of Jordan’s equipment and travels to provide services, but it is not known if visits to Wolf Point would be included.
A veterinarian from Williston, N.D., comes to Culbertson once a week.
Jordan has been a tremendous help to the nonprofit Wolf Point Pound Puppies.
The organization has saved more than 500 dogs in a little over two years, because the city’s pound has a six-day hold and many dogs have been euthanized in the past because of a lack of space to keep them beyond the six days. Many are taken to organizations in cities in Montana and North Dakota for adoption.
“We’ve talked about [Jordan leaving], but we really don’t know what we’re going to do,” Wolf Point Pound Puppies administrator Tina Bets His Medicine said. “We went without a veterinarian for a long time.”
Bets His Medicine is giving dogs parvovirus tests and vaccinations, but she cannot administer rabies vaccinations or treat sick dogs because she is not a licensed veterinarian.
“It’s going to be a little more difficult for us, obviously,” she said.
Jordan said she thanked the people of Wolf Point for being loyal and supportive.
Written by John Plestina
While many of Montana counties have lost a total of about $20 million in the bipartisan spending bill that avoided another government shutdown, the impact to Roosevelt County is between $600 and $800.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., co-authored bipartisan legislation that would restore Secure Rural Schools program and Payment In Lieu of Taxes funding to 2011 levels and extend both programs for three years.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., supports the legislation.
PILT benefits most counties in Montana with funding for federal lands that local governments cannot tax.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating through September. That legislation excludes the $330 million Secure Rural Schools program.
The lions share of the PILT funding in Montana benefits counties in the western part of the state, Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said.
“We have very little federal land,” he said.
PILT benefits counties in several western states with public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.
Valley County receives considerably more in PILT funding than Roosevelt County because of a presence of BLM lands.
Another issue is that there is no authorization for PILT funding for Indian reservation lands, which comprise most of Roosevelt County.
“I wish it [reservation lands] did. We have periodically tried to get it to count [for PILT],” Macdonald said.
“The National Association of Counties has looked at it. I don’t know if it will ever hit Congress,” he said.
Written by Herald-News
The Fort Peck Tribes will receive $5.5 million of over $26 million in grants the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is issuing tribal housing authorities to construct, acquire or modernize housing for low income families.
The funds were made available through Indian Block Grants under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.
“Safe and reliable housing is critical to the health of communities and families, so making these investments will help address the housing needs in Indian Country,” said Jon Tester, D-Mont. “I will continue to work with tribes to increase and expand housing options for all Montana families.”
Tester, who is vice-chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, supports the reauthorization of
NAHASDA which provides approximately $650 million per year to eligible tribal housing authorities across the country.
Tester is also pushing for the reauthorization of the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program designed for tribal members to receive loans for new construction, refinancing or purchasing a home.