Seamans: Keystone XL Puts Lewis & Clark Water at Risk

Dakota Rural Action board member and friend of the blog Paul Seamans explains to readers of that Sioux Falls paper the damage Keystone XL could do to South Dakota’s water supply:

The Cheyenne River valley is a very wide, deep valley, and the Cheyenne River flows directly into the Oahe Reservoir above Pierre. The mainline shutoff valve for the Keystone XL on the north side of the river is 16 miles from the mainline shutoff valve on the south side of the river. A 36-inch diameter pipe will hold around 4.5 million gallons in those 16 miles. A conservative estimate is that 40 percent of a pipeline will drain back if there is a break in the bottom of the river. This would amount to at least 1.8 million gallons of dilbit that would spill into our drinking water source. The massive spill into the Kalamazoo River more than four years ago was only half that amount. The risk that comes from building the Keystone XL pipeline would far outweigh any benefits. Our water is too valuable a resource to expose it to such a threat [Paul Seamans, “Pipeline Poses Threat to SD Water,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.05.18].

Everything is connected: the Cheyenne River and the other watersheds Keystone XL would cross in West River flow into the Missouri. The Missouri flows to Vermillion, where the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is pumping millions of gallons of water per day and will ultimately serve over 300,000 people in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. If concerns about drinking water don’t spur our leaders to caution about Keystone XL, perhaps they’ll respond to a reminder that businesses and big dairies are counting on Lewis & Clark for a clean water supply. Poison the Cheyenne River, and ultimately you could poison East River dairies.

Seamans lives in West River. Keystone XL will run through his land near Draper. He’s worried about problems Keystone XL could cause well down river and beyond our borders. The Public Utilities Commission should show similar concern when it hears TransCanada’s application to renew its construction permit for Keystone XL this summer.

11 Responses to Seamans: Keystone XL Puts Lewis & Clark Water at Risk

  1. mike from iowa

    Texas just passed a law-HB 40 which prevents towns from banning fracking in their jurisdiction which endangers any and all sources of fresh water for those cities. Wingnuts favor local control until they don’t favor local control.

    If Texas ever gets cold I guess they’ll just turn on the faucet and light their water supply on fire for heat. Does burning water get hot enough to make coffee?

  2. mike from iowa

    p.s. wingnuts can’t see the big picture with dollar signs in their eyes. Good article Mr Seamans. Now you’ll be burnt at the stake for being a heretic.

  3. Excellent letter, Mr Seamans! The first Keystone pipeline also crosses the Missouri River and is already experiencing pipeline thinning thus putting our water supply in danger.

    Is DRA aware of the comments by NE farmers who say they believe if heavy farm equipment damages the pipeline the farmer will have to pay for the repair? They believe it would be a heavy financial burden. And one farmer in SD says that the crops grown over the first pipeline are damaged by the heat from the pipeline as it dries out the soil. Have these issues been researched by DRA?

  4. Paul Seamans

    Union Co; TransCanada, in their original easements, has attempted to lay all liability onto landowners. In my easement they will pay for damages over $2 million if the landowner buys a liability policy that covers the first $2 million. Problem is that many insurance companies will not provide coverage for a pipeline spill.
    DRA has been working with landowners from Keystone 1 on issues like reclamation and crop losses due to the pipeline. These issues will be brought up at the PUC permit hearings.

  5. Nick Nemec

    What is the reasoning that landowners should have to liability for the first $2 million in damages in the event of a spill? That really seems like a corporate dodge to pass liability to a third party.

    The issue of drying out land over the pipeline and resulting lower yields is a legitimate concern. Here on the edge of the farm belt every drop of water is needed to raise a crop and baking it off with a buried pipe is the height of folly. There will be permanently lowered yields over the pipeline right of way due to the heat from the pipe and reduced tilth of the soil removed and replaced. Man can’t disturb Mother Nature without consequences.

    Don’t forget there are other rural water systems with intake plants downstream from the Cheyenne River crossing. Mid-Dakota takes in water a few miles north of Pierre, the Mni Wiconi system takes in water near Fort Pierre. There may be others I’m not remembering right now.

  6. Nick Nemec

    Here’s a map of SD water systems. I’m not sure but I think West River Lyman Jones and the Ogalala Sioux systems are both supplied by Mni Wiconi.

  7. Paul Seamans

    Nick Nemec; thanks for the map. West River/Lyman Jones is part of the Mni Wiconi as are three reservations. We are extremely lucky to be part of this rural water system.

  8. The concerns laid out are real and they are justified. This line will leak. The problems are that those that will decide to go ahead with this will not be in office when the leaks happen so they will not face any blowback.

  9. Here is a new one.
    When you have oil, you have problems. What will it take for them to understand that the Keystone XL is a deathtrap.

  10. Mr. Seamans, this is exactly what you are speaking of with the coming ruptures in proximity to our drinking water.

    Not only would our drinking water be contaminated, the walleye population in the Missouri River could suddenly disappear to cause an economic tragedy as well. I hope those folks in Pierre have an idea where water comes from.