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Published July 28, 2014, 11:36 AM

Hat-wearing leadership for ND

TOWNER, N.D. — One of many saltwater spills that have sterilized productive farm and ranch land in North Dakota occurred recently near Mandaree, N.D. A faulty pipeline released 1 million gallons of saltwater — a brine up to 30 times saltier than sea water — down a ravine heading towards Lake Sakakawea.

By: Ryan Taylor , Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — One of many saltwater spills that have sterilized productive farm and ranch land in North Dakota occurred recently near Mandaree, N.D. A faulty pipeline released 1 million gallons of saltwater — a brine up to 30 times saltier than sea water — down a ravine heading towards Lake Sakakawea.

A line in an Associated Press story really struck me: “Most of the saltwater was pooled on the ground, soaked into the soil or held back by beaver dams.” There is an investigation going on as to whether the million gallons of saltwater reached the lake, threatening the drinking water intake for Mandaree.

The solace for the community, local agriculture and for North Dakota is that the beavers had it under control.

Is this what we’ve come to in North Dakota, a dependence on large, furbearing rodents to protect our drinking water from pipeline spills?

I’m thankful for the beavers, but I think our government, particularly our agriculture commissioner — who sits on the Industrial Commission responsible for these saltwater pipelines — should be leading the effort for common-sense requirements to protect our farmland and drinking water.

We elect people for this kind of work, which shouldn’t be left to chance or rodents.

Three weeks before the Mandaree spill, I proposed a Landowner Bill of Rights, and one of the planks to protect landowners is a requirement for flow meters and pressure cutoff switches on saltwater lines that cross our farms and ranches. Such requirements would protect the land from sterilization that can last generations and protect our waters from contamination.

I believe it is a fundamental role of our agriculture commissioner to look out for the industry and way of life that has sustained us through 125 years of statehood, and that means standing up against threats to our soil and water.

We can have a prosperous, successful oil and gas industry in this state while taking care of our farmers and ranchers who require fertile soil and clean water. But it won’t happen without leadership.

I was at the North Dakota State Fair July 21, because I accepted a debate invitation back in April from the Northwest Landowners Association, which represents some 400 landowners working to successfully coexist with oil and gas development.

My opponent, the incumbent in this race, turned down repeated requests to participate, denying voters the chance to compare our commitments to agriculture, landowners and North Dakota.

Maybe he’s not going to take in our State Fair; that’s his choice. Maybe I should ask the beavers down by Mandaree to sit on a panel with me to discuss landowners’ issues. Apparently, we’re the only ones willing to do the job.

Editor’s note: Taylor is the Democratic-NPL Party’s endorsed candidate for North Dakota agriculture commissioner and a columnist for Agweek. See Goehring’s response.

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