By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A Canadian company's plan to build a 600-mile, 3-foot diameter pipeline that would cut through northern Adams County continues to move forward and is scheduled to begin construction next month.
Enbridge is in the final process of obtaining permits for the project that will run between Flanagan, Ill., to the company's terminal in Cushing, Okla. Along with the Spearhead Pipeline, Enbridge hope to transport up to 775,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Canada, North Dakota and Montana to Gulf Coast refineries.
As much of the national debate in the county Keystone XL pipeline, the Flanagan South pipeline project is moving towards approval and is looking at an expedited permit review through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Jerrid Anderson, project director of the Flanagan South Pipeline, said he believes the permits will be approved in time to start construction in about three weeks.
"We've been planning that start date for quite some time," he said. "We started planning this project a couple years ago, and there is an environmental window to avoid impact to migratory birds -- their habitat -- that expires at the end of July. That's pretty much nationwide."
The pipeline would run parallel to the existing Spearhead Pipeline, although there will be some deviations on the path, including in Quincy.
"We do deviate for about five miles in Quincy," Anderson said. "We're going around the north end of town. The existing Embridge Spearhead Pipeline that goes through the Spring Lake area, the new line will go to the north. We're going to avoid that congested area."
Anderson said Quincy is at the end of one of the segments of the pipeline, so no construction may be noticed until late September.
"Over a two-month period, they will experience the front end all the way through to the back end of this assembly line of all these various crews that put the line in the ground," Anderson said.
Construction of the entire pipeline is expected to be completed by next summer.
Enbridge says it wants to be a good neighbor to the communities the pipeline would pass through, and it has been touting the hundreds of short-term construction jobs it would create. The company also scheduled a series of "open houses" fin Missouri, Kansas and Illinois, including one this week in Rushville,.
A public hearing in April 2012 Quincy drew excitement from public officials, but not all meetings have been smooth.
Mike Diel of Macon, Mo., said he's had no luck getting Enbridge or the corps to give him specific details about the project, including a precise pipeline map and copies of emergency response plans.
"We're all worried about oil spills and the tar sands getting into the drinking water," Diel said. "Until I know where the pipeline is going, how am I supposed to know what I'm supposed to be worried about?"
Enbridge spokeswoman Katie Lange said fears about the pipeline's safety are overblown. She described routine aerial patrols of the pipeline and its seven pump stations and round-the-clock computer monitoring in Calgary that "can shut it down from just a touch of a button" if necessary.
"Once the pipeline is in the ground, there's a very rigorous and robust operations and maintenance program," Lange said.
But Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes said those assurances are insufficient, given recent history. A July 2010 rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan dumped an estimated 1 million gallons of the heavier diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River, a 35-mile portion of which remained closed to public access for two years. The U.S. Department of Transportation subsequently fined Enbridge $3.7 million.
Lange confirmed that Enbridge is seeking regulatory approval under the Nationwide 12 permit process, which would mean the company wouldn't be obligated to follow more rigorous Clean Water Act requirements such as public notification or lengthy environmental reviews.
Those permits are limited to utility projects in which each water crossing disrupts no more than one-half acre of wetlands. The Flanagan South pipeline would cross the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as well as hundreds of smaller tributaries.
The labor force building the pipeline segment in Illinois will peak at around 700 workers with many from the footpath of the pipeline, Anderson said. About 35 crews build the pipeline like the assembly line.
"In addition to the pipeline, we have pump stations to be able to move the oil down the pipe," he said.
Quincy is home to one of the pump stations on the Spearhead Pipeline and will be home to one for the Flanagan South Pipeline.
Anderson said there would be anywhere between 50 and 60 construction workers involved with building the new pump station with many being local workers.
"That work is going to start at about the same time as the pipeline spread starts," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.