Encroachment | VideoAmy Fox | 2/4/2013
As you drive along Highway 23, it may look like open land. But, underground, itís an ICBM complex.
"It`s a one acre lot on top of primarily farmland. And, inside of that, itís an underground facility. The underground facility is about 100 feet deep and it holds a minute man 3 missile. And, that missile is on alert," said Colonel Robert Vercher, 91st Missile Wing Commander.
Since 1962, the United States Air Force established an agreement with North Dakota landowners about the area near the missile complexes.
Col. Vercher said, "We signed easements with landowners that gave us a little less than one acre lot to put individual missiles on."
Under the agreement, landowners can not come within 1,200 feet of the sites. But, with North Dakota`s oil boom, the value and interest of the land has gone up.
"We have development going on, obviously, associated some of it with the Bakken oil field and some of it is just naturally developing because there is a demand for their land," said Col. Vercher.
Each week, airmen go out to all of the sites to practice. And, they say have enough security to monitor the land.
"If we find someone is beginning to build or has an increased interest in the area, then we`ll go and contact them and make sure they are aware of the easement. So, it`s kind of been a natural progression," explains Col. Vercher.
While there havenít been any major land disputes yet, Col. Vercher says there are currently seven sites where developers want to build something near a missile complex.
"It`s an issue we stay concerned and engaged primarily to educate the population and the county commissioners and any developer who`s interested in using their land for any purpose."
As the state of North Dakota continues to grow and develop, the U.S. Air Force will continue to monitor the land to prevent encroachment from happening in future.
Col. Vercher says the ICBM complexes occupy 8,500 square miles of North Dakota land.