By Samar Fay
Courier Editor 

Growth Outlook Depends On Iffy Oil

Could Be Modest, Could Be More; Uncertainty Rests With The Bakken


A new study released by the Montana Department of Commerce predicts that Valley County will experience modest population growth in the decades ahead, and then decline slightly to about present-day levels by 2060.

From the estimated 2012 population of 7,604, the numbers will rise to a peak of 8,188 in 2028. This is almost exactly what the population of Valley County was in 1990. Then, just as gradually, the numbers will decline to 7,813 in 2060. The whole change is 584 people.

The Census and Economic Information Center (CEIC) within the Department of Commerce released population projections through 2060 for Montana’s individual counties on May 8. These projections are a product of Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) known as eREMI.

Due to uncertainty in the Bakken development, CEIC has estimated two additional projection scenarios for 16 eastern Montana counties. The information will be valuable to decision makers addressing both the opportunities and challenges created by the oil development affecting eastern Montana.

The two extra scenarios for eastern Montana, created by the Montana Department of Transportation, are based on heightened levels of oil production. There is a medium high oil production scenario and one for high oil production, carried out to the year 2035.

“The two additional projections allocate to each of the 16 counties the potential regional effects the MDT model forecasts if more aggressive oil development and accelerated production occurs,” said Joe Ramler, senior economist for CEIC.

In the medium high oil production scenario, Valley County would peak in 2028 with 9,756 people, 1,568 more people than in the eREMI estimate. The population would drift down to 9,426 by 2035.

If there is high oil production, Valley County would peak one year later with 10,043 in 2029, then fall to 9,710 in 2035. That’s 1,858 more people in 2029 than the eREMI projection.

“These population projections are invaluable to our communities for the purpose of planning and developing policies as well as understanding regional growth,” said Meg O’Leary, director of the Montana Department of Commerce. “Through this information, policymakers and planners will gain a better understanding of Montana’s regional growth and needs far into the future.”

The projections and methodology used to incorporate the various Bakken development scenarios are available on the CEIC website


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