A lot of good news has been coming out of North Dakota recently. Most notably, the Bakken oil field has helped North Dakota buck the national economic slump by creating new jobs and tax revenues. Thanks to the Bakken, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate and fastest growing economy in the nation.
As the oil industry completes its infrastructure design phase and enters its full development phase in 2012 and 2013, there's good news for residents, officials and community leaders in the oil communities experiencing this remarkable growth. Soon, nearly all of the infrastructure needed to develop the Bakken will be in place, and western North Dakota is settling into a period of steady growth.
We appreciate North Dakotans' cooperation and patience in tackling the challenge of infrastructure in the Bakken. Now that the area of the oil field is defined, the objective going forward is to optimize production and improve efficiency over the lifespan of the field, which is projected to be longer than 30 years.
So while North Dakota will continue to benefit from the Bakken for many years to come, the need for new oil field infrastructure and workers is leveling off. And with the Bakken field being well defined, development will be limited to the western third of the state in primarily rural areas.
One of the great blessings of the Bakken is that it is being developed with modern technology. Horizontal drilling and Continental Resources' EcoPad technology enable us to drill several wells from just one drilling pad, significantly reducing our footprint in the field. Yes, there will be thousands of new wells drilled in the Bakken, but that drilling activity will be spread out over the next 30 years using the most efficient and ecologically sound technology available.
In addition to using advanced technologies, the oil and gas industry is building permanent employee housing and installing new oil, gas and water lines this summer and beyond to reduce truck traffic on the roads. Through oil and gas taxes, the industry is also responsible for $1 out of every $4 of state revenue. Due to the dramatic increase in tax revenues, North Dakota is making unprecedented investments in infrastructure in this region. Last year, the Legislature approved $1 billion in improvements, including the expansion of highways, water treatment plants, and sewer lines in oil and gas producing counties.
North Dakota has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including some of the richest agricultural land in the world and now the nation's largest oil field discovery in more than 40 years. Adding the development of the Bakken to the arsenal of North Dakota's resources has made North Dakota the premier state in America, lessening our dependence on foreign oil and, in fact, leading the way to achieving North American Energy Independence in the next decade. Continental Resources is committed to the Bakken and to "Doing it Right." I believe the best of the Bakken for North Dakota is yet to come-it's going to be a bright future in the Peace Garden State.