AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Ten to 15 years from now, many people will look back on the year of 2013 and mark it as the year that Watford City officially began its metamorphosis from the small rural community of 1,500 that it had been for the past 40 years and started to become a city that few could have ever imagined.
Who would have imagined five to 10 years ago that Watford City’s projected population could very well approach 10,000 to 15,000 people? Or who would have dreamed to think that our school district, which was facing serious challenges of declining enrollment, would see its enrollment top 1,000 students? Or who would have thought that upward of 12,000 vehicles a day would be traveling U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston and creating rush hour traffic in the area?
As a result of McKenzie County and Watford City being in the epicenter of the development of the Bakken and Three Forks oil and natural gas reserves, this region of the state is not only being impacted the hardest, but also has the potential for tremendous growth.
2013 was definitely an exciting year. It was a year when all of the talk of new development finally came to fruition as private businesses and investors poured millions of dollars into new construction.
In the past year, we’ve seen new housing and commercial developments spring up within Watford City’s newly-expanded city limits once water and sewer lines were extended. We’ve seen former pasture and farm land transformed into shopping areas with fast food restaurants and new retail businesses. We’ve seen motels and apartments rise up almost overnight.
In 2013, we’ve seen work begin on the four-laning of U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston and the plans finalized for new bypasses around Watford and Alexander.
And in 2013, we saw the McKenzie County Healthcare System begin planning work for a new hospital, clinic and nursing home and the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 moving forward with plans to build a new school facility.
Without a doubt, 2013 will go down in history as the year that saw Watford City begin its transformation into a much different community than it has ever been.
What lies in store for Watford City in 2014?
That is the million dollar question. But, with McKenzie County boasting 40 percent of the state’s drilling rigs and leading North Dakota in both oil and gas production, one thing is certain - more growth is going to happen. Without a doubt, in the coming year, we are going to see more homes, apartments, office buildings, gas stations, truck stops, restaurants and retail businesses being built.
The changes that are coming to Watford City and this area over the next few years are going to be challenging and exciting.