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Bakken pipeline is clear to start building

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Construction of the much-debated Bakken pipeline through Iowa is a go. The Iowa Utilities Board on Monday voted 2-1 to allow Dakota Access -- a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners -- to begin construction of an ...

DES MOINES, Iowa - Construction of the much-debated Bakken pipeline through Iowa is a go.

The Iowa Utilities Board on Monday voted 2-1 to allow Dakota Access - a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners - to begin construction of an interstate crude oil pipeline on Iowa land where the company has all the necessary permissions.

The ruling covers the vast majority of the 346 miles of pipeline that is to run through 18 Iowa counties from the northwest to southeast. Company officials said work is to begin immediately after a signed order is received. That is expected to happen Tuesday.

“We will begin construction in the appropriate areas immediately upon receiving the signed order from the Iowa Utilities Board,” said Lisa Dillinger, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, noting her company has secured voluntary easement agreements on 89 percent of the Iowa properties.

The company plans to have the $3.8 billion pipeline in service by the end of the year.

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The 1,168-mile pipeline will carry up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from northwest North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois. Construction has already begun in the other states. About 4,000 trade workers per state are expected to be put to work.

Company officials declined to provide a specific construction schedule, but said work is to be ongoing at several different sites across the route at the same time.

Dakota Access sought special permission to begin construction in Iowa after a ruling in March that said the company was required to have all permits in hand before breaking ground on the project. Dakota Access still is waiting for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction on about 2.5 percent of the land where the pipeline would be built.

“The intent (of the Iowa Utilities Board permit) is satisfied and I would grant a motion to commence construction in areas where Dakota Access has all other authorizations,” Iowa Utilities Board Commissioner Nick Wagner said before the board voted Monday.

Wagner and Libby Jacobs voted to support the construction request, while board Chairwoman Geri Huser voted against it. At an earlier meeting, Huser questioned whether the Iowa Utilities Board had jurisdiction and whether its process would be jeopardized.

After the meeting, about 50 or 60 critics of the project assembled on the state capitol grounds near the Iowa Utilities Board office to protest the vote. Several lawsuits have been filed to block the pipeline, including a lawsuit filed by nine landowners and another by the Sierra Club.

One hurdle for Dakota Access could be a parcel along the pipeline route in the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area in Lyon County. Last month, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued a “stop work order” after issuing a permit in March conditional on authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The service revoked authorization after learning the land may contain human remains in sacred tribal burial grounds.

Iowa State Archaeologist John Doershuk visited the site Friday with state, federal and tribal officials and followed up by email on Saturday stating the site should not be disturbed. He said it has “significant cultural and historical importance to the Upper Sioux Community, Standing Rock and other Sioux.”

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Doershuk wrote he is recommending the land be considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and also protected under the Iowa Code sections protecting ancient human remains.

“The site is to be avoided and protected in place,” he said.

Dillinger, of Dakota Access, has said company officials plan to work with the appropriate agencies to make any necessary adjustments to the current pipeline plans.

“Energy Transfer takes great care is these types of situations and we will do all that is needed to mitigate any impact,” she said.

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