P&Z debates approval of Dakota Access Pipeline in Mercer County
By Daniel Arens
Recently, the upcoming construction of a new urea plant for the Dakota Gasification Company’s Beulah plant has generated lots of discussion related to temporary crew camps to house workers for the construction. On Feb. 16 and 17, however, another important industry and energy issue took center stage: a pipeline that will transport crude oil from the Bakken oil fields to Illinois, part of which will run through a large section of southern Mercer County.
Representatives from Dakota Access, LLC, attended a Mercer County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting to discuss their plans for the pipeline with P&Z board members, and hear questions, concerns, and comments from the board on the roughly 29 miles of pipeline that will travel through the county. The pipeline will enter the county just south of Zap and then move southeast through the county to the southeast tip near Highway 49.
Although the pipeline has been approved with certain stipulations by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC), the county P&Z can add additional stipulations on the pipeline construction and maintenance, although naturally they cannot reduce the level of scrutiny placed by the PSC.
Currently, the plan for the pipeline within Mercer County is to begin construction in May 2016 and finish by November of this year, barring any major weather conditions. Dakota Access has two contractors working on the actual construction in North Dakota, and said that the Mercer County portion of the pipeline would likely be contracted entirely to Precision Pipeline. Any further subcontracting that Precision employs does not need to be verified with Dakota Access, provided the construction is completed according to specifications.
Wes Klein, who took over the chairman position of the county P&Z, pressed Dakota Access’s representatives on the issue of contact for residents who could be affected by the pipeline construction. Dakota Access has already made “agreements in principle” with all of the landowners whose property would be located where the pipeline construction occurs. Klein stressed the need for continued contact access for these property owners throughout the period of construction and afterward if any problems should arise.