by Whitney Flach
On Tuesday, the Bakken oil pipeline plans cleared a final regulatory hurdle when U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that proposed crossings of Iowa waterways will comply with federal environmental laws.
The $3.8 billion pipeline will transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Illinois. Lisa Dillinger, Dakota Access spokeswoman said that the Corps of Engineers has recently granted a permit for the pipeline which runs routes through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota. The pipe will diagonally cross eighteen counties in Iowa. The Corps of Engineers verification was a big step forward for the pipeline project. Dillinger said, “We can now move forward with construction in all areas as quickly as possible in order to limit construction activities to one growing season and be in service by the end of this year.” Construction has already begun in some counties.
Much of the Iowa pipeline route will cross farmland, where the pipeline must be buried under a minimum of 48 inches of soil. Agricultural drainage tiles will be crossed with a minimum of 24 inches of separation between the pipe and the drain tile. Topsoil will be segregated during construction to a minimum of 12 inches or in accordance with landowner requirements, officials said.
Areas of construction that began in early June in southeast Iowa have started stringing and welding pipe. Dillinger said, construction activities are underway along the route in Iowa, The early stages of construction include staking, grading, clearing, temporary road construction, and building of temporary fences and gates. Dillinger shared, “We have signed easement agreements on 96% of the properties along the route in Iowa and have signed 100% of the properties in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois. The plan remains to be in service by the end of this year.”
Dick Lamb, a landowener in Boone County who is in the pipeline’s path says, “The proposed Bakken pipeline is all risk and no reward for Iowa. He continues on by saying, “It isn’t a question of if it will leak, but when it will leak, and when it does it will irreparably destroy valuable Iowa farmland and the waterways we depend on.”
Cherie Mortice of Des Moines is board president of Iowa Citizens for Community which is an activist group that opposes the pipeline. She says, “It has been ‘business as usual’ for Iowa and federal regulators — putting corporate interests ahead of the common good and our land.”
On the other hand, leaders of the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a coalition of business, labor and farm groups, applauded the Corps of Engineers’ authorizations for the pipeline. Bill Gehard of Iowa City, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, a labor union organization said “Thousands of American workers from labor unions throughout the Midwest are already benefiting from this project, and these final permits will secure their jobs for the entirety of construction.”