Saturday, August 18, 2018

Our comment letter on the proposed Little Missouri River bridge

Jim has written on The Prairie Blog about the proposed new bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora that is being shoved down our throats by a megalomaniac county commissioner who wants to spend up to $20 million of our gas tax dollars on a “Bridge to Nowhere.”

At the insistence of the Federal Highway Administration, the county is deep into an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process—in fact nearing the end stages of that process—and will soon be asking for federal funds to build its bridge. One of the final steps in the process is a public comment period, which is open now and runs through September 4. If you go to this website, you will find the details and a link to another website which contains the actual Draft EIS, for your reading pleasure.
If you have any feelings about running a lot of traffic through the valley of the Little Missouri State Scenic River, or wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, you should send in comments on the project. Below is the letter Jim and I have sent, expressing our feelings. This letter and Jim's earlier blog should give you plenty of information about the project, so you don’t have to read the entire 178-page document. (Although if you really want to spend a summer afternoon reading, here’s the link to the Draft EIS.)
Even easier, if you agree with what we have written, feel free to just copy and paste a link to this blog into an e-mail addressed to and tell Ms. Turnbow you agree with the letter in the blog, and your comments will be duly noted.

Jen Turnbow, Project Manager
P.O. Box 1157
Bismarck, ND 58502-1157

August 17, 2018
Dear Ms. Turnbow:

Please accept these comments on the Draft EIS for the Little Missouri River Crossing in Billings County, North Dakota. We are writing to recommend Alternative L, the no-build option.
If built, this bridge would be the most colossal waste of taxpayer dollars in memory. If it is built with federal or state matching funds, approved by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, it will be a huge embarrassment for both the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, because it is truly a “bridge to nowhere.”
North Dakota has substantial infrastructure needs, as witnessed by several state legislators recently, and the proposed $11.2 million, and likely as much as $20 million, could be much better spent correcting existing problems rather than building a new bridge unlikely to be used by many except possibly the oil industry.
In spite of all being said by the county and KLJ, it appears the only real beneficiary of this bridge would be the oil industry. Federal and state tax dollars should not be spent to accommodate a single industry, especially at the expense of real and substantial damage to the historic, recreational and scenic properties of the states only designated State Scenic River. 
If the bridge is built with Billings County taxpayer dollars, as the Commission has indicated it might do if federal or state dollars are not available, it should be subject to a referendum by Billings County voters before it is approved. 
Almost no one wants this bridge. It has simply become a cause celebre for Billings County Commission Chairman  Jim Arthaud, who has already spent several million dollars in Billings County tax dollars pursuing it, and, despite the fact it is not in his preferred location, has gone too far down the road for him to consider abandoning it without losing face. It is simply now a monument to his persistence, a monument on which he would like his name inscribed. 
Almost no one will use this bridge, according to testimony at the public hearings, unless KLJ, the project’s engineers, are misleading us with this statement:
“Traffic volume increase of 3.5 per cent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways. Not expected to generate new traffic; however the redistribution of local trips attracted to the new bridge is anticipated to increase the typical 2.5 per cent traffic growth rates by 1 per cent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways.”
If that statement is true, there is no need for the bridge. If that statement is misleading (which is not only possible, but likely), and the volume of heavy truck traffic increases dramatically, it will destroy the sanctity and peacefulness of the state’s only designated State Scenic River, likely in violation of Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, enacted by the North Dakota Legislature “to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in its present state . . . (and) maintain the scenic, historic, and recreational qualities of the Little Missouri River and its tributary streams.” The North Dakota DOT, as a lead agency for this project, should not approve a project which would violate the law.
Today there are ZERO trucks driving through the river valley and across the Little Missouri State Scenic River between Medora and the Long-X Bridge. That is what the residents of the river valley, although there are few, want the case to be. According to testimony at the public hearings, there are fewer than ten families living alongside the river who could possibly benefit from this bridge. But they live in fear of the noise, danger, and massive dust clouds which could be generated by heavy truck traffic through the river valley and on their farm-to-market roads.
The County Commission has leaned heavily on the need for the bridge to accommodate emergency vehicles. That argument doesn’t wash. Almost all of the county’s emergency vehicles are located in Medora, less than a mile from the bridge across the Little Missouri River there, and can go either way—east or west—to respond to an emergency.
For all of these reasons and others, the county should quit wasting taxpayer dollars and select Alternative L, the no-build alternative, and the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration should reject the use of state and/or federal funds for this project.


Lillian Crook & Jim Fuglie

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Red Oak House Garden Notes no. 47: The Daylilies are Waning

Peak daylily bloom here at Red Oak House has passed and I can't help but feel a bit wistful about this.

Dakota Sunshine daylily

The focus of this past July has been daylilies of all kinds, and not just in my garden. Late in the month, I took in an exhibit of daylily art at Bismarck Art Gallery Associates, where it was delightful to see the creative talents of friends on display.

Later that week, the Region One Daylily Association had its annual gathering in Bismarck/Mandan, an event that the Central Dakota Daylily Association (I'm a member) has been planning for years. I was truly in the presence of some hard-core daylily enthusiasts and it was great fun (I confess that I bought three new varieties). I even got to meet Melanie Mason, one of the nation's premier daylily hybridizers. I own a few of her creations.

Melanie Mason and Lillian

Here is a wrap-up of some of my daylily photos since my last blog. Now it is time to focus on canning and freezing vegetables and preparing for autumn garden chores.

Webster's Pink Wonder daylily

Lemon Meringue Twist daylily

Bama Music daylily

Ruffled Rainbow daylily

Gavin Petit daylily

Canyonlands daylily

Chicago Scintillation daylily

Prairie Moonlight daylily

Little Light of Mine daylily

Strawberry Cream Cupcake daylily

Raspberry Griffin daylily

Just Plum Happy daylily

Best For Last daylily

Huckleberry Candy daylily

Notify Ground Crew daylily

Prairie Home Companion daylily

Northwind Dancer daylily with Orange Rocket barberry in background

Swiss Mint daylily

Rock Around the Clock daylily

Gavin Petit daylily

Carnival in Mexico daylily

Burgess Blackmoor daylily

Rocket City daylily

Orchid Elegance daylily
Cherokee Pass daylily

I've had a few people ask for panoramic shots of my garden so I shot some video one evening. Here are two links: Starting in the front yard and the backyard

Later this month (Aug. 21), Red Oak House is on the Bis/Man garden tours. Sadly, these folks won't get to see the daylilies, but there is the promise of asters and mums, and the zinnias that have survived the slug slaughter look very nice. Oh well, they can always read this blog. 

Webster's Pink Wonder daylily with my hand for reference
Chili Spice daylily

Colorado Moonfire daylily

Wide Wide World daylily, one of my favorites
Lindy Twirl daylily

Friday, August 3, 2018

Journey to De Smet, South Dakota

Like me, my sisters are fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura's stories shaped our understanding of the prairie landscape on which we make our homes. This past weekend, my sister, Beckie, and I made the journey to De Smet, South Dakota, a place, to her friends' amusement, on Beckie's bucket list.

I've been there, but it has been more than twenty years ago, and I was more than willing to return for a more extended visit. Readers of this blog will recall that I've written about Mrs. A.J. Wilder on several other occasions.

I hereby testify that De Smet is one of the most beautiful and well-cared for cities on the prairie -- indeed, in the United States. The folks in this community display great civic pride at every turn, and a plethora of helpful information for visitors is on the webpage. We were mightily impressed.

We arrived in the early afternoon after a pleasant drive on prairie blue highways and immediately went to the Visitors Center to sign up for the guided tour. The center is located in a beautiful Victorian-era house with three important buildings on the property, the original Surveyors' House and the schoolhouse that Laura and Carrie attended, as well as a replica of the Webster School, the last school in which Laura taught before she was married. The grounds are filled with amusing items and were bustling with young families eager to make their own Laura memories, some in period dress.

For the record, this was her idea, not mine

We started in the Surveyors' House, the house in which the Ingalls family lived in the first winter after they arrived in (then) Dakota Territory. The following spring, Charles Ingalls, the patriarch, became one of De Smet's founders.

Somewhere I have a photo (probably in their scrapbooks) of me with my daughters, standing in front of this building all those years ago.

Next was the interior of the De Smet school, where we all sat in the old school desks, complete with slates and such. I had a little fun with my slate and my sister played along.

Our tour guide bore an uncanny and pleasant resemblance to Laura herself and did a most excellent job.

This panel depicts the episode in which a blizzard hit when the children were in school and they nearly missed the town on their walk back to town. 

The final stop on the guided tour was the house Pa Ingalls built after Laura was married, where, after his death, Ma and Mary took in boarders until Ma's death, in order to make ends meet.

Charles Ingalls portrait

When we toured the exhibits in the Visitors Center, we acquired new nuggets of knowledge. We were particularly thrilled to view the "Big Green Book," the animal storybook the Ingalls family owned. There is no photography allowed within the exhibit. Be sure to budget time to read every single word on the displays.

Next it was our chance to make the driving tour of the town and surrounding areas, completing our checklist of Ingalls sites, beginning with a drive north of town to the site of the farm on which the newlywed Laura and Almanzo made their home, where their daughter, Rose, was born.

Onward we went to the area just south of town, past the site on which the annual LIW pageant is held each summer (we just missed out on that), to the Charles and Caroline Ingalls homestead site, all along sharing with each other our personal recollections of the stories from the books. Five of the cottonwood trees which they planted still stand and it is, for many of us, a deeply spiritual and peaceful place. The first time I was there, I gathered some twigs and kept those for a very long time.

Finally, we headed to the cemetery where many of the family members are buried along with other notable members of De Smet from Laura's time. Many of the markers have been replaced and are thus more readable than Pa's (below).

We checked into our lodgings, a bed & breakfast located in the former banker's home, two houses down from the aforementioned Ingalls home. Although we had considered lodging at the Ingalls Homestead, The Prairie Manor was a very pleasant place to stay and a better choice for us this time. We were in the Japanese Garden Room on the main floor.

After dining at the Country Club, we strolled around the town, walking past the park in which the Father De Smet statue pays tribute to his influence on prairie life and on to the Ingalls' original church.

Other places we stopped along the way included the site of the town of Manchester, where Laura's sister, Grace, settled with her husband, notable because in recent memory the town was completely destroyed by a tornado, followed by a stop in a nearby prairie town in which our Norwegian ancestors settled in the early 20th century prior to their arrival in southwestern ND and southeastern Montana, fellow pioneers who might have known the Ingalls family.

Our final hearty laugh of the trip was a drive-by of the International Vinegar Museum. We had just missed the community Vinegar Festival by one day. Who knew?

Our only regret was that we had not thought to bring along our sunbonnets (I have one made by my Ma Crook, my great-grandmother, to shield my Aunt Frances' head oh so many years ago). Maybe we will take these on our next journey down Laura's memory lanes.  How lucky am I to have a sister who enjoys doing these activities with me? Danged lucky.