Illinois News

Issues mostly settled locally as Dakota Access Pipeline work to resume

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 28, 2017 8:30 pm

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- President Donald Trump's push to move forward with construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines will have little effect locally, as most of the work has been completed.

The president signed a series of memorandums Tuesday, "aimed at speeding up the pipeline's approval process. One of them ordered an end to what he called ‘incredibly cumbersome' environmental reviews," reported the Business Insider website.

Though the project has sparked a drawn-out protest from the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, among other Native American tribes, the response has been significantly quieter in Illinois. The Dakota Access Pipeline runs through portions of Adams, Brown, Hancock and Pike counties, and the Illinois portion has nearly been completed for some time.

"We did see some issues that had to be handled on an individual basis. Yes, we had pushback, but nothing like Iowa and North and South Dakota," Hancock County Farm Bureau Executive Director Kristin Huls said. "In most cases, the land owner hired or consulted with an attorney, and the easements were settled in a couple months."

An easement essentially gives an entity ­-- generally a utility provider of some sort -- the legal right to cross private property. While utilities may be incorporated on private property, as is the case with the pipeline, the land owner retains all legal rights to the property. The Dakota Access Pipeline crosses more than 500 private properties, all of which required the negotiation of easements.

"The pipeline company made an offer that was hard to refuse," Pike County Farm Bureau Executive Director Blake Roderick said about the easements.

In December 2015, Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, was granted power of eminent domain -- the power to take private property for public use. For the intrusion, land owners are due "fair compensation."

"Our main interest is the land owner," Huls said. "We would like it to be proactive. Once eminent domain goes into effect, we always fear the land owner won't come out as well."

Hancock County is home to about 30 of the state's overall 180 miles of pipeline. The pipeline essentially cuts the county in half. Huls said the work there is about 90 to 95 percent complete.

"I will say it brought a lot of business into Pike County," Roderick said. "There were a lot of license plates from Nebraska and Kansas. It certainly hasn't been negative. I've really heard no complaints, which is strange on a pipeline issue."

Although the Illinois Farm Bureau has not taken a specific stance on the construction of the pipeline, it "does like the domestic oil supply getting to the Midwest" and the likely reduction in dependency on foreign oil that accompanies such a project, Adams County Farm Bureau Executive Director Shawn Valter said.

"At the end of the day, there was a little disruption for one cropping season," Valter said, "and the farmers are typically paid for crop damage."

During construction, steps were taken to alleviate as much of the impact to farmers as possible. The pipeline was required to be installed at least 5 feet below ground. Top soil removed from the area was replaced when the pipeline was installed to "make sure the integrity of the soil was upheld," Valter said.

"It was a boost to our local economy at that time," Valter said, "but it has already come and gone."

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