The national Brewers Association is opposed to the new Trump tariffs concerning steel and aluminum. The changes would raise costs for manufacturers that distribute products in aluminum cans or steel kegs, and could inadvertently give an advantage to corporations that have long-term supply contracts over Montana brewers who buy raw materials in small batches.

Rapid growth has businesses at the former Bonner Mill site beginning to plan for expansion or simply trying to keep up with current business. One of the company’s is Pedicab which designs and builds custom bikes. Another company staying busy is Kettlehouse Brewing which plans on opening a tap room this summer at their Bonner Mill brewing site.

The state of Wyoming will seek an agreement with U.S. Interior Department and National Park Service officials about collecting a new fee at Yellowstone National Park to fund wildlife conservation efforts. Wyoming Gov. Mead has signed a joint resolution passed by the state Legislature calling for discussions about the fees. The idea is to generate money for Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to deal with issues like wildlife collisions, disease and migration routes. The resolution does not specify what the amount would be.

Don’s Store in Lewistown will be closing this summer after over 70 years in business. The advent of on-line shopping and overnight shipping have put stores such as Don’s under pressure to close. Don’s has customers from all over the world who have hunted out of Lewistown and used Don’s as a place to purchase hunting supplies and share stories.

Williston’s Job Service, office lists 1,326 job openings this month, an increase of 367 job postings over last month. The state agency represents a fraction of actual job postings, as not all companies use the free service. Along with the demand for workers, wages have taken a jump, according to the Job Service. They are an average of $1,428 per week in Williams County, $1,347 per week in McKenzie County and $1,335 in Oliver County. These numbers are up almost 40 percent over last month’s average weekly wage.
The Bakken area will have two job fairs in April. Williston will host a job fair on April 25 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Raymond Family Center. Watford City will host a job fair on April 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rough Rider Center. 26.

Lucky’s Market will hold a Job Fair to fill some 100 employment slots needed to open its newest store in Montana, in Missoula. The Job Fair is taking place now through April 20, at the Hilton Garden Inn. Lucky’s is opening at the Southgate Mall at 2901 Brooks St. The store, which is 32,000 square feet, will employ approximately 150 people. For more information visit https://www.luckysmarket.com/missoula-montana/

Kraken Oil and Gas of Houston, a new independent in the Williston Basin, is making a steady commitment to continuous horizontal well drilling in eastern Montana, joining three other operators in a surge of new activity, according to reports in Oil Patch Hotline. At the same time, results from the state oil and gas lease sale, which included acreage in Richland County, were disappointing. The Dec. 5 sale, conducted by the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation, netted total bonuses of $194,406 for leases on 26,865 acres, with bids averaging $7.24 an acre.

Also from the oil fields: ONEOK Inc. anticipates connecting 650 new wells in the Williston Basin and mid-continent this year, a 20% increase over 2018, according to Oil Patch Hotline. Its Bakken NGL pipeline is operating at full capacity, as volumes averaged 136,000 BPD in the fourth quarter. The proposed Elk Creek NGL pipeline will move over 200,000 BPD when it is completed in 2019. That 900-mile, 20-inch pipeline will run from Sidney to Buston, KS and cost $1.2 billion. Construction has not started yet. ONEOK said that between 25 and 30 rigs drilling in the Bakken can produce as much natural gas volumes as between 70 and 80 rigs did three years ago.

In mid-February, the ND Public Service Commission was asked to approve the expansion of two natural gas processing plants at a cost of $386 million. The commission held a public hearing Feb. 15 on the proposed Arrow Bear Den Gas Processing Plant in McKenzie County, which will add an additional 120 million cubic feet per day of processing capacity to the existing 30 Mmcf a day facility. Located 7.5 miles east of Watford City, the plant will cost $136 million and be built by Arrow Field Services LLC. The PSC also received a request from ONEOK Rockies Midstream to approve a $250 million expansion of its existing Bear Creek gas processing plant in Dunn County. The existing 80 Mmcf a day gas plant was finished in 2016, and ONEOK is proposing to expand the facility to 175 Mmcf per day, and to install equipment to remove H2S and CO2 from the incoming gas.
If the City of Bozeman continues its rate of growth, by 2020, its population will reach 50,000 or more. If the city surpasses the 50,000 threshold, the county, Belgrade and Bozeman will be required by federal law to form a Metropolitan Planning Organization, (MPO) if the communities want to continue receiving their annual allotment of federal transportation dollars. Missoula, Great Falls and Billings already have MPOs (in Billings it is called the Policy Coordinating Committee—PCC). Between 2000 and 2016, Bozeman added 17,000 new residents, which means it is growing at the rate of about 3 percent per year. The MPO controls land use through the establishment of a Planning Board, and adoption of required growth policies, as it oversees transportation planning and priorities for a community.

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., a division of MDU Resources Group announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase a North Dakota wind farm expansion to be developed by ALLETE Clean Energy (ACE), a subsidiary of ALLETE, Inc. The expansion of Thunder Spirit Wind, located near Hettinger, ND, will boost the combined production at the wind farm to approximately 155 megawatts of energy, and will increase Montana-Dakota’s generation portfolio from 22 percent renewables to 27 percent. The original 107.5-MW Thunder Spirit Wind project was constructed by ACE and included 43 turbines; it was purchased by Montana-Dakota in December 2015. The expansion calls for 16 turbines producing 48 MW. The project’s cost is approximately $85 million and is expected to be online in late 2018. Montana-Dakota originally signed a power purchase agreement with ACE for the expansion’s generation, with an option to purchase the project. Montana-Dakota determined that owning the project was the least-cost option for its customers.

Montana’s winter snowpack is record breaking. The Upper Yellowstone snowpack is 148 percent of normal. Some snow telemetry in the Boulder River drainage are way above normal for this time of year. Fisher Creek north of Cooke City has the second deepest snowpack in 20 years, with 104” – and snowpack is above normal across the region. Areas further east and into the Park are seeing the second deepest snowpack on record. Most basins across Montana are at near to above normal. Even so temperatures for January were 3 to 7 degrees above normal.