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Page 6 n Thursday, June 14, 2012


Medora bridge still a touchy subject

By LAUREN DONOVAN Bismarck Tribune

MEDORA — A meeting about a

proposed Little Missouri River cross- ing came to the river country and to the people who will live with it every day. Billings County, along with state and

federal transportation departments, is studying a bridge on the Badlands river north of Medora to link state highways on either side. The idea drew heavy fi re last week

from conservationists who worry that oil trucks and traffi c will destroy the quiet of the Theodore Roosevelt Na- tional Park, Elkhorn Ranch and the recently acquired Elkhorn Ranchlands (former Eberts ranch) right across the river. In turns out the plan to build a

bridge to link two state highways is not all that popular — at least publicly — even in Medora, where Billings County has been convinced for more than two decades that it’s needed for local and oil traffi c. The June 7 meeting was the second

meeting to take comments on the fi ve alternatives in the plan, plus one to not build a bridge at all. It drew about 60 people, many in

boots and cowboy hats who pulled up to the meeting in pickup trucks mud- died by recent rain. The plan to span the river does have

its supporters, even from a few ranch- ers who said they have more to do than pull stuck vehicles out of the river when people try to cross on rocky and sandy

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they need a bridge to get through the Badlands with fi re and emergency vehicles. Otherwise, it’s 100 miles be- tween bridges. Joe Kessel, who lives north of Medo-

ra and is a member of the fi re depart- ment, said rocky fords aren’t always useable, and residents deserve some- thing more reliable. “Why can’t people here cross the

river when they want to, not when the river lets them?” he asked. The most outspoken ranchers were

the Con Short family, whose west river ranch would be crossed by the most southern of the fi ve alternatives. Dave Short said the family didn’t

favor the bridge bringing traffi c right through the ranch. “I can’t see the validity of cutting

through here. This ranch is as impor- tant to us as the Elkhorn is to other people in the community,” Dave Short said. He said the county owed his family

a phone call on the proposal. “We would love Billings County to

let us know they have a huge need,” he said. KLJ Engineers, which is conducting

the environmental impact statement on the project, said it won’t have an es- timated bridge-traffi c count until June and won’t know how much the bridge will cost until a site is picked. Commissioner Jim Arthaud told

Dave Short that the county can’t talk to the Short family about the alternatives

because of the environmental study. He said the environmental process is ridic- ulous because the study, not the county, decides good locations for a bridge. “The process is absurd. We can’t

come and talk to you. If we misstep, one of the environmental groups in this room will sue and the whole thing will blow,” Arthaud said. He said the county has already spent $700,000 on the project over the years of study. Arthaud said he thinks the bridge

should cross on public land; that would be through the former Eberts ranch, now the Elkhorn Ranchlands and up- river from Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin site in the national park and where the county bought some right of way years ago.

The meeting got a little hot when

Badlands advocate Jim Fuglie told Ar- thaud that if he thinks the situation is ridiculous, “it’s maybe because you have a bad idea.” Ron Jablonski, U.S. Forest Service

chief ranger, said the agency has al- ready gone on record in opposition to any road and bridge crossing through the Elkhorn Ranchlands, which it pur- chased in 2007. “Can we stop it? We don’t have that

kind of power, but we are opposed,” Jablonski said. Con Short, senior member of the

Short family ranch, said the bridge won’t happen. “We will get this project stopped. We do not need a bridge across the

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