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Pipeline construction could save roads, ease heavy traffic

Commissioner Kevin Cramer

KILLDEER -- Area residents could begin to see less truck traffic after the state's Public Service Commission held a formal hearing at City Hall Thursday afternoon to discuss a proposed 77-mile crude oil pipeline.

Wyoming-based Bridger Pipeline, LLC is vying to construct Four Bears Pipeline, a 12-inch thick steel pipeline system spanning Billings, Dunn and McKenzie counties, with an initial capacity of 60,000 barrels a day and the future possibility of moving 110,000 barrels a day, according to PSC documents.

While the project would not increase area export capacity, it would bring oil closer to production facilities, equating to less truck traffic.

"We have estimated that we will initially reduce the truck traffic on (U.S.) Highway 2 and (U.S.) Highway 85 by about 150 truckloads per day, increasing to about 300 truckloads per day and that's by receiving those barrels via pipe or via truck at (state) Highway 23, on the north end," said Tad True, vice president of Bridger Pipeline.

Involving 96 parcels and 82 landowners, the pipeline would begin north of state Highway 23, about 15 miles west of the Four Bears Bridge in McKenzie County, according to PSC documents.

The pipeline's southern end will connect into Bridger's existing Heart River Pipeline at Skunk Hill Junction located about 18 miles northwest of Dickinson, or about 12 miles northeast of Belfield, according to the documents.

True said the pipeline would receive barrels of oil at a location 15 miles west of New Town and pump oil south toward Skunk Hill Junction, an existing junction between the Little Missouri Pipeline and the Belle Fourche Pipeline about 10 miles northwest of Dickinson.

The project also includes two truck unloading facilities, located on state Highways 23 and 200, True said.

Gathering systems would also be attached to the pipeline, connecting to other pipelines.

True said the Four Bears Pipeline will move open capacity toward production and doing so would decrease trucking costs for producers and royalty owners in getting the oil to market.

Eventually shipping crude oil produced in McKenzie, Dunn and Mountrail counties, the pipeline would also provide "market flexibility, with access to additional markets such as the Tesoro Mandan refinery, Clearbrook, Minn., Guernsey, Wyo. and possibly with TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline, True said.

Kathleen Spilman, managing director of Keitu Engineers & Consulting Inc. in Mandan, coordinated resources necessary to conduct a 78-square mile field survey for items of concern by the PSC, such as possible effects to botany, wildlife and wetlands.

The proposed pipeline would cross the Little Missouri River and the Killdeer Aquifer, but neither should see any adverse outcomes, Spilman said.

The pipeline's route will avoid all sensitive plants and because of the construction's timeframe, all sensitive animal species should not be impacted, Spilman said.

However, in October the area is part of the endangered whooping crane's southern migration and based on recommendations from wildlife officials, if any whooping cranes are identified within a 1-mile area of construction, that construction will cease until the crane leaves, Spilman said.

Dunn County Commissioner Cliff Ferebee testified at the formal hearing and said the project would be a positive move for the area.

"All the oil impact that's going on in these western counties, especially Dunn County, we cannot keep moving ahead of the local roads, I'm talking county roads and state roads ... give the application to this pipeline," Ferebee said.

To ensure safety, traffic and roads need to be improved and the pipeline could help do so with the significant reduction in traffic, he said.

"We met with the (North Dakota) Highway Patrol here a week ago and going through Manning at 4:30 in the morning to 8:30, we guessed over 600 vehicles in a 4-hour period," Ferebee said.

Sen. George Nodland, R-Dickinson, said the pipeline is desperately needed.

"I think this is a wonderful thing ... I am 100 percent for it," Nodland said. "The safety issues of getting them trucks off the road, the impact on the roads is just phenomenal. The commissioners are overwhelmed."

If approved, construction on the approximately $29 million project could begin as soon as Oct. 1, and if all goes as planned, operations could begin at the end of March, True said.