Engineer will oversee pipeline work

I+S Group engineers will be overseeing the Bakken oil pipeline construction in 12 of the 18 counties affected, and will likely do the same in Webster County.

But before it signs any official agreement, the Webster County Board of Supervisors had a few details to straighten out, including questions about inspections of road crossings.

Evan Del Val, engineer with the I+S Group, presented to the board Tuesday. The group will provide inspection of the installation process to some counties along the proposed route of the pipeline to be built by Dakota Access LLC, which would run diagonally through Iowa from South Dakota to Illinois.

The pipeline has not yet been approved by the Iowa Utilities Board. A hearing on the approval will begin Thursday at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Boone.

If it is built, ISG will not inspect the pipeline itself, he said; only the drainage tiles, farm field and other county and privately owned assets.

“To be clear we’re not inspecting the pipeline itself,” he said. “We’re not looking at the welds, pressure testing. Those are federal inspectors doing those tests.”

“We’re out there making sure the topsoil is being stockpiled appropriately, that it’s been stripped appropriately, that all the private tiles that they’ll cross will be protected. … We’ll oversee that, and then we’ll oversee backfill and the restoration of the land back to the way it was prior to the project.”

There is no cost to the county for this.

“Iowa code requires the pipeline to notify the inspector 24 hours before they’re going to be there,” he said. “If the inspector is not there, the pipeline doesn’t have to hold up and wait for them to come.”

Since most counties don’t have the manpower to have inspectors there constantly, Iowa law requires the pipeline company to pay for private consulting engineers like ISG to oversee the project.

Dakota Access will pay the county, and then the county will pay ISG.

“We are working for the county. We are there to ensure county lands and county ag infrastructure is maintained throughout this process,” Del Val said. “It’s a system that the Iowa Legislature put in place through the Iowa Utility Board to ensure Iowa’s No. 1 economic motor is protected.”

ISG is headquartered in Mankato, Minnesota, but has three offices in Iowa, including Storm Lake and Des Moines, Del Val said.

Under Iowa code, the engineers will have authority to halt construction and require changes if something is being done not according to the agreed plan, Supervisor Mark Campbell said.

ISG needs to get things in place now so it can be ready for the rapid pipeline development schedule, Del Val said.

Campbell said it’s likely there will be multiple crews working in five different places at once, and Dakota Access wants to be finished with work in Webster County in as little as 10 days.

ISG is “ramping up” so it will have enough staff to keep up with that sort of schedule, Del Val said.

“This is a unique construction project in that, the way they’re viewing it is they have a contract on the back end that they need to be pumping crude oil in November of next year,” Del Val said.

In order to meet that schedule, they’re going to be working long hours six or seven days a week.

“The agreed-upon rates are going to be commensurate with that type of work environment, different than a typical construction project where people are out at their usual engineering rates.”

But the law doesn’t require the engineering company to oversee road crossings.

Del Val said since the engineers will already be on-site doing inspections, they will also inspect those crossings. But the supervisors said before any formal letter of intent is signed, it should say that specifically.

Del Val said the fee for engineering services is different from the crossing fee the company will pay to cross tiles and roads. The supervisors said they want to make sure this is clear also.

“I think we had that discussion of them thinking we were going to pay you out of that fee,” Leffler said.

The county has already hired MHF Engineering to do some predesign work on its drainage tiles, Supervisor Keith Dencklau said.

Some of the tiles were put in more than 100 years ago by hand, Dencklau said. In future improvements it might be necessary to put them in deeper.

MHF will determine the deepest future drainage districts might go, and request Dakota Access builds its pipeline 2 feet below that, he said. The company has asked the county for this information, and doing it this way is supported by the utility board’s rules.

“This way it should never be in the way,” Dencklau said.