Pipeline project manager discusses progress

Discussion on the Dakota Access Pipeline has slowed down in recent months, but progress has definitely been made. Although no holes have been dug, paperwork has been filed and meetings have taken place to keep the project moving forward.

Dakota Access Pipeline senior project manager for Illinois, Adam Broad was in Carthage Friday along with former State Senator Laura Kent Donahue, to host an informal meeting with community members at city hall. Broad gave an update on Dakota Access, and its parent company, Energy Transfer, and addressed any questions or concerns from the group.

Broad discussed meetings with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), with a hearing scheduled for Dakota Access in September of this year. Energy Transfer will meet with the ICC in late June or early July to discuss its crude oil pipeline that begins in Patoka, Ill., a place Broad referred to as a “break point” for the two main projects in Illinois.

One point of interest in regards to area farmers was the mitigation plan agreed to with the Department of Agriculture, which Broad hopes will be signed this week. He noted that not much is different from the original plan, but the differences are beneficial to landowners.

“There have not been any subtractions; there have been additions,” said Broad. “For the most part they’re favorable to the landowner.”

The main adjustment in the agreement favoring landowners is crop yield. Landowners are being paid for crop loss in the first three years, but now there is a mechanism in place for landowners to come back to the company if yields are not where they should be down the road.

With each landowner contacted and the route of the pipeline established, depth of the pipeline has been ironed out for easements.

“We’ve committed to having the pipeline a minimum of five foot deep in agricultural areas,” said Broad. “We also have to have two foot of separation with the drain tile. If the drain tile is four foot deep, that puts our pipe at six foot deep.

“There’s going to be some fluctuation across the entire project based on where those drain tiles are actually located.”

Hancock County Farm Bureau manager Kristin Huls attended the meeting and relayed some concerns to Broad, primarily with surveyors being out in the fields after planting and damaging some crops. She pointed out that permission for the surveys may have been given over the winter, before the crops were in and chances of damages were minimal.

“I would ask on behalf of the landowners if you wouldn’t mind taking another look at that or having another discussion about it,” Huls said. “It’s very early in the process. You don’t want there to be issues.”

Broad was very receptive to Huls’ concerns, and said he would address the issue. He also informed the group that Dakota Access is currently engaged with contractors and should have agreements nailed down within a month. Broad reported it would be valuable to county engineers to have information on all of the construction taking place.

The project is still on schedule for completion at the end of 2016. According to Broad, a conservative estimate is for crews to lay a half mile of pipeline per day. With hundreds of miles of oil transporting pipeline cutting through Illinois, Laura Kent Donahue addressed the involvement and benefits of the entire country.

“It’s all U.S. steel for the most part,” she said. “It’s all U.S. crude (oil). It doesn’t have anything to do with Canada. It has nothing to do with Keystone. It’s a different kind of oil.”

Added Broad, “It’s all going to go to U.S. markets.”

Energy Transfer owns and operates 71,000 miles of natural gas and crude oil pipelines. With the newest miles scheduled for Hancock County, Huls asked about the impact on the community, and Broad discussed the local market.

“Once we have a contractor on board, their crews can be anywhere from 600-800 people,” he said. “As they come through each county they’re going to need places to stay, eat, get gasoline, and everything else. They may need office space. They may need additional warehousing capabilities.”

Broad mentioned his goal was to get in touch with community development leaders to designate options for the hired contractors and crews. Carthage Community Developer Amy Graham was in attendance, and offered several places to begin the process.

During the discussion Huls highlighted that with more information available to landowners, there was also less resistance to the pipeline. Fair compensation, a safer way to transport oil, and the opening up of railways and highways for agricultural products had helped with the process of moving forward. Broad added there are many things that go into the process, and sometimes he takes certain concerns for granted because he encounters them daily.

One major concern brought up in the meeting was the crossing of the Mississippi River. While a lot of attention has been given to landowners and field tile, a huge obstacle remains how the pipeline will move from Iowa to Illinois, and how it will affect county residents.

Broad has already been in meetings with the Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife. Major river crossings are a common occurrence with pipeline projects, and the company is very selective of its contractors for river projects.

Broad discussed that contractors will drill a hole from one side of the river to the other, and the pipeline would be buried 100 feet below the bottom of the river. There is a large elevation change with the Illinois side being on a bluff. The length from one side to the other is about 7,500 feet, with that distance in pipe being strung out at the same time.

Once the pipe is strung out, it will be welded, coated, and pretested. The technology and equipment used for the job is precise enough to knock a stake out of the ground from across the river.

“Once that’s all been done, we’ll pull that whole section of pipe in all at the same time,” said Broad.

When the time comes there will be a major hole to dig, but until then Dakota Access and residents of Hancock County have plenty of papers to sign and meetings to attend.