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Tour to examine North Dakota pipeline damage

A tour planned for Monday aims to draw attention to an area north of Minot where oil development is blamed for damaging the land, something organizers say could happen in the Bakken if precautions aren’t taken.

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“My goal with this tour is to wake up our state officials,” said Donny Nelson, a farmer and rancher in McKenzie County, who is leading a tour to Bottineau County.

The tour, which was planned before a 20,600-barrel oil spill was discovered in Tioga, N.D., will include stops at sites where pipelines leaked and spilled saltwater, a byproduct of oil production that is 20 times saltier than seawater.

One of the spills, discovered by a farmer in 2011, severely affected 23 acres of cropland and shallow ponds, and the North Dakota Department of Health is still working with the company to clean it up, said Kris Roberts, environmental geologist with the department’s Division of Water Quality.

Nelson, who does not own land in Bottineau County but lives in the heart of the Bakken near Keene, said he wants to raise awareness of a legacy of damage that occurred in an older North Dakota oilfield.

“Those same things that have happened up there have happened here, just not on the same scale,” said Nelson, who is past chairman of the Dakota Resource Council, but this tour is not sponsored by the council.

Fintan Dooley, a Milwaukee attorney whose mother homesteaded a few miles from the focal point of the tour, also is helping organize the event. Dooley said he has concerns about salt damage to the land related to oil development and would like the state to take an accounting of the land that has been damaged.

“There’s a huge legacy of lands that will never be productive again,” Dooley said.

Several state officials received invitations to the tour. The public also is invited to the tour, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Monday starting from the junction of U.S. 83 and North Dakota 5,