Weather Forecast


Hidden pipelines: More than 7,000 miles of pipelines in North Dakota, state maps restricted from view of the public eye

Courtesy Graphic This map shows Stark County's documented pipelines as of Friday. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of Washington, D.C., does not allow the public to see statewide maps of pipelines for security reasons, PHMSA Damon Hill said. Citizens can see county pipeline maps.

North Dakota has more than 7,000 miles of underground oil and gas pipeline, and requests from state and federal agencies to dig are sent in weekly. However, they cannot be seen on any state map, and no one knows exactly how far they stretch, officials said Friday.

"Following 9/11, we actually restricted any type of access to pipeline maps from the public for security reasons," said Damon Hill, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokesman in Washington, D.C. "We were concerned as to how the information or the maps would be used."

The PHMSA has a public map viewer for the public to view pipeline maps by county, which can be viewed at

The PHMSA also limits the scale of pipeline, according to its security policy. Viewers cannot zoom in more than 1:24,000 scale, or approximately 0.2 miles on the scale bar, on the public map viewer.

An oil boom in western North Dakota has increased the need for pipelines in the state, said Justin Kringstad, North Dakota Pipeline Authority director. Not all of the pipelines are documented, he added.

The state needs more accurate maps, said Lisa Call, community affairs for Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council for Development in Dickinson, a quasi-public council serving eight counties in southwest North Dakota.

"It's all part of the maturation process of energy development," she said. "Along with that energy development comes development of an adequate mapping system, and the state just doesn't seem to really be there yet."

North Dakota needs more pipelines to catch up with the oil industry, said Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council president.

"If you want fewer trucks, less dust and safer roads, you need more pipelines," he said. "Every time you get one in place you can begin to reduce the trucks."

While more pipelines are approved in North Dakota, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which will transport crude oil from Canada to Texas, was rejected by President Barack Obama Jan. 18.

Ness said it will take 18 months to three years of pipeline development to catch up to the oil activity.

While Call agreed having additional pipelines in the state is needed, an effort will also be needed to make comprehensive and up-to-date mapping systems, she added.

"They're all just going in so quickly and seem to be multiplying so fast that there needs to be some repository where people can actually check what's going on and where those pipelines are located," she said.