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TransCanada’s new preferred pipeline route

By   /   April 18, 2012  /   9 Comments

The Canadian pipeline company that wants to build a pipeline across the nation’s mid-section has given Nebraska officials a report identifying alternative routes around the state’s Sandhills region, with a preferred route identified.

The report lays out preferred “corridors” for a newly routed pipe. TransCanada’s spokesman said the new preferred route is about 20 miles longer than the original route, which traversed the Sandhills. He said the route does not cross the Sandhills, as defined by a 10-year-old map used by the state Department of Environmental Quality. A pipeline opposition group, Bold Nebraska, disagrees, saying the new route still crosses Sandhills.

“All we can do is go by the definition of the Sandhills that the DEQ has given,” said TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard. “The Nebraska Sandhills were defined 10 years before this even became an issue.”

Jane Kleeb, head of Bold Nebraska, says the new path still crosses the Sandhills.

“I am literally standing with a landowner whose land this pipeline still crosses in the Sandhills,” she said. “So unless I am standing on a mirage, it still crosses the Sandhills. If TransCanada cared about our state, landowners, water and Sandhills they would have proposed a safer, more responsible route instead of trying to play games with landowners.”

Howard said the route respects the area identified by the DEQ as Sandhills.

“Unfortunately, Bold Nebraska has chosen not to look at a map,” he said.

Howard said the new route is not expected to add costs, since the company won’t have to add concrete and casing to the pipeline in areas of the Sandhills where the water table was high.

The report lays out several configurations of a new route, but recommends a 174-mile-long route that crosses 65 bodies of water, 1.76 miles of “ecologically unusually sensitive” areas and one mile of a wild and scenic river, according to the report. It also crosses the Ogallala aquifer, which lies below most of Nebraska and all but the first 10 miles of the pipeline study area.

TransCanada’s plans to build a 1,700-mile-long pipeline to carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast were thwarted largely by landowners in Nebraska who worried about the potential for leaks in the ecologically fragile Sandhills region. State lawmakers reached an agreement with the company to reroute the pipeline around the Sandhills. TransCanada gave the report on alternatives and a preferred path to state officials today.

The first segment of the preferred route crosses primarily ranch land in Keya Paha, Rock and Holt counties as well as the Keya Paha and Niobrara rivers – maximizing the original Keystone XL route to avoid affecting additional landowners. The path continues southeast through portions of Holt and Antelope counties, crossing 69 pivot-irrigated tracks, cropland and four miles of rangeland. The last 70-mile segment crosses mostly farmland in Antelope, Boone and Nance counties and connects with the original route in Merrick County. It would cross the Elk Horn River, the Cowboy Trail and the Loup River.

The preferred path would cross the habitat of the American burying beetle, piping plovers, whooping cranes and other species.

The boundaries of the study area were influenced by the fact that TransCanada sought to start and end at the originally proposed points, starting near Mills and ending near Merrick. Among TransCanada’s goals was to minimize the length of the new route by using the originally proposed route “to the greatest extent practicable,” to minimize the number of landowners affected by the pipeline, the report said.

The report said shortening the pipeline was a “major goal,” since the shorter the pipeline, the less the impact on the environment and landowners. Planners also tried to stick to the original route as much as possible since it’s already been reviewed by multiple agencies, the report said.

The report says the Sandhills, cities, towns and federal or state-protected land were avoided “to the extent practicable.” The planners did aerial and ground reconnaissance of the corridors in December.

The Cowboy Trail – a former rail line that was converted into a recreational trail — was considered as a potential route but discarded because it crosses the Sandhills, among other reasons.

The director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, Mike Linder, said the state review process can now occur, following the passage of a bill the governor signed yesterday.

“Public participation will be important throughout this review, and NDEQ will make every effort to provide information and invite comment throughout the process,” Linder said. “There will be a number of ways to review and comment through live meetings, internet comments or through the mail.”

Linder said his agency will soon announce a series of public information meetings in the proposed route area. The report and related information is now online and people can submit comments and review background materials there.

Reported by Deena Winter, deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.

  • SandhillsTaxpayer

    I find it interesting that there are those who oppose a pipeline going across Nebraska BECAUSE they just LOVE the Sandhills soooo much and that total devastation awaits us if that unacceptable choice is made. What is not mentioned is that there are ALREADY a number of pipelines across this part of the country, AND it is a very real possibility that the oil could be transported by rail instead. WOW!!!! All those trains, all that pollution repeatedly belched out into MY air, all that vibration, and only a few rural folks will suffer . . . and from personal experience we KNOW that consideration in Nebraska for the rural folks is at an all-time low. Frankly, if that is the alternative, I would rather deal with the pipeline!!!!!

    I wonder WHICH railroad would benefit from such a thing?? Think for yourself now: who owns a railroad, is based right here in Nebraska that would be able to perform that job WITHOUT building anything more than a few hundred miles of railroad tracks right through the Sandhills and maybe right through your land and mine? Why that could well be BNSF which is owned by none other than the Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway AND Mr. Warren Buffet. And how would the railroad get access to YOUR land to build those tracks – eminent domain because I understand that Mr. Buffet has some powerful friends in Washington! He has access you and I will NEVER have.

    I wonder if Mr. Buffet and/or Berkshire Hathaway is a large financial backer of Bold Nebraska??? That would be an interesting fact to know! Where is a good Nebraska Watchdog when you need him?

    Repeatedly the opposition has said that their BIGGEST concern is for the Ogallala aquifer, the ranching country and the possibility of pollution by an oil spill! Let me see now, the amount of pollution resulting from vastly increasing train travel to transport that product would be LESS than the oil running down a pipeline, right? And IF the train is involved in a major crash, what happens to all that oil??? WELL, darn it, it ends up on the ground . . . how inconvenient is that????? Folks, a spill is a spill, and clean-up is going to be required. And remember, NO ONE has said NO CANADA OIL . . . what they have said is NO KEYSTONE PIPELINE!! The devil truly is in the details!

    Here’s something to consider: talk to Ben Nelson and ASK him what the deciding factor was for him to cast his vote against the Keystone Pipeline. I hear he owns some $6 million of shares in Berkshire Hathaway. Get it??? Ben Nelson’s vote may be connected to Warren Buffet, who is connected to Berkshire Hathaway which ultimately leads to BNSF!!!!!! Isn’t that amazing????? I have been hearing a lot of talk recently about “follow the money” if you want to know WHO benefits from the decisions made!

    So people, the choice may NOT be pipeline or no pipeline. It may just be pipeline V.S. railroad!! Oh and by the way, is there a union involved here? All those pesky details . . . makes you wonder how much we really DON’T know about this darn pipeline, the alternatives being considered, and the personal gains to be made behind the scenes! Ultimately it might be important to know WHO will be the winners and the losers in this high-stakes crap shoot!

  • Thad Daly

    Why would anybody but the oil company and campaign fund hungry politicians want this pipeline?

    The oil would be for export via Texas gulf coast refineries.

    Not domestic use. That has been stated over and over, by the politicians even.

    Do a search ” Export – us oil products, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel”

    Jobs temporary, at best only 200 after construction is completed.

  • What!?

    Git-R-Done!

  • Pingback: Some Keystone XL oil could end up in foreign markets, report warns

  • DANNY

    @SANDHILLS TAXPAYER:

    Yes,and we all ALSO know that JFK’s killer was part of a giant conspiracy,don’t we?

  • DANNY

    @SANDHILLS TAXPAYER:

    AND DON’T WE ALSO KNOW THAT THERE WAS NO HOLOCAUST,THAT THE MOON LANDINGS WERE FAKED,THAT THE FEDS ARE COVERING UP UFO ACTIVITY IN AREA 41 IN NEW MEXICO?…..And if you REALLY live in the sandhills it’s not likely that you are paying very much in taxes,but are getting those big fat checks from Uncle Sam for doing nothing to earn them,ala State Senator Deb Fischer,plus many other sandhillers!!!

  • Prairie Dog

    Oh yes, someone (known as Prairie Dog) has been opposed to the tar sands mining in Canada, and remains opposed. Fifty years from now the people of Canada are going to be looking back on these days with dismay. The Canadian government is not only allowing, but encouraging the rape of a tract of land the size of England! In case you think “rape” is a poor choice of words, take a look at YouTube videos of the Alberta Tar Sands Project. Maybe you will suggest a stronger word after you see what they are doing. I am not a Canadian, but I live on the continent of North America. Even more, I live on Planet Earth, and what these guys are doing is serious harm on a planetary scale. Seriously.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=search_videos&search_query=alberta+tar+sands+project&search_sort=relevance&search_category=0&page=

    Copy that and paste it in your browser’s address bar.

    GOOD ECOLOGY IS GOOD ECONOMY

  • Jess Hipke

    This new pipeline crosses my Fathers land.

    That being said, Would you rather have oil spilled on some low quality pasture ground in Nebraska, or floating in the gulf? Check out the Department of Transportation statistics on Oil loss in average oil pipelines.

    http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/about/faq

    check out the “Safe Pipeline FAQ’s” link at the bottom of the page.

    I tell you one thing that I know, I have seen the day to day operation of many of these farmer/ranchers in the sandhills, and I guarantee that they will put much more oil in the ground than that pipeline will after they use 1,000,000 barrels. A lot of them dispose of used engine oil by dumping it on the driveway to make a sort of asphalt after many years. Just a bunch of damn hypocrites if you ask me.

  • Protect our Aquifer

    Some do not realize the importance of the Ogallala Aquifer. It provides fresh clean water for drinking (for humans and animals) & irrigation water for our crops. Not only for the state of Nebraska, but for 5 other states. THIS is our LIVELIHOOD.

    How long can you go without extra oil? Well, we got by for centuries without it, and now, we could always ride a bike, take a walk, carpool with others, use a bus, and even a cart and pony. We COULD survive without tons of extra oil. And for ENERGY we can develop clean forms of Wind Power, & Solar Power, instead.

    BUT how long CAN you GO without WATER?? A good Estimate is 7 DAYS, you can live without fresh drinking water, or YOU DIE. THINK ABOUT THAT. You are risking your own SURVIVAL, just for a few greedy bucks for a greedy FEW. And this applies also to our crops & animals, and ALL FUTURE GENERATIONS.