Landslide concerns prompt change in Dakota Access pipeline’s N.D. route
BISMARCK -- Concerns about a possible repeat of a 2011 landslide in western North Dakota led state utility regulators to approve a route change Wednesday for the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline project.
BISMARCK -– Concerns about a possible repeat of a 2011 landslide in western North Dakota led state utility regulators to approve a route change Wednesday for the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline project.
Construction is underway in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois on the 1,168-mile pipeline, which will move Bakken crude to a hub in Patoka, Ill., with a capacity of up to 570,000 barrels per day.
North Dakota’s portion of the pipeline will snake about 350 miles across seven counties and account for $1.4 billion of the cost.
After approving more than a dozen route changes last month, the North Dakota Public Service Commission on Wednesday voted 2-0 to allow another reroute to avoid what chairwoman Julie Fedorchak called a “geographically unstable” area where a landslide was discovered in May 2011 near the Little Missouri River in Dunn County.
In that incident, the side of a butte caved in and slid downward, exposing both a Bridger Pipeline company line constructed the previous winter and an older pipeline running parallel farther up the hill. Dakota Gasification Co., which owned the older pipeline, blamed the landslide on Bridger’s “slipshod construction practices,” PSC documents show.
The site was regraded with fill material, but concerns about future instability led engineers hired by Dakota Access to recommend installing the pipeline through the area using deep trenching or horizontal directional drilling.
The supplemental order approved Wednesday requires the company to drill horizontally to minimize the potential for erosion and landslides, Fedorchak said.
Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, also was granted its request to expand the tree-clearing width from 50 feet to 85 feet at 152 locations along the pipeline route to provide a safer workspace.
Commissioner Brian Kalk noted the 85-foot width was already specified in landowner easements, and such reroutes and tweaks aren’t uncommon on projects of this size. But with heightened awareness about the Dakota Access project, he said it was appropriate to put them on the PSC’s regular agenda.
Fedorchak said it illustrates the ongoing conversation between PSC staff and the company.
“There’s a lot of interaction on a daily basis, and we will be closely monitoring the construction and completion of this line, which is a vital line to the oil industry,” she said.
Commissioner Randy Christmann abstained from voting because the pipeline route crosses a relative’s property.