Notes from the Field: Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing Lake and Farm Country

Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is in full swing here in East River. The pipeline crosses Highway 19 just south of the Montrose corner. Saturday, the pipe had been laid under the road and was awaiting connection with the line on both sides of the road.

Dakota Access pipe under Highway 19, partially in standing water, 2016.06.25.
Dakota Access pipe under Highway 19, partially in standing water, 2016.06.25.

My dad looked at that standing water and said that won’t hurt that pipe any. What that pipe and its eventual 450,000 to 570,000 daily barrels of Bakken oil may do to our water is a separate question.

Section of Dakota Access Pipeline awaiting installation, 2016.06.25.
Section of Dakota Access Pipeline awaiting installation, 2016.06.25.

This section of the pipeline was Made in the USA, so surely nothing will go wrong. Of course, that burger was also Made in the USA, and it still left someone on the Michels crew dissatisfied.

Run-off/erosion mitigation at Dakota Access crossing of Highway 19.
Run-off/erosion mitigation at Dakota Access crossing of Highway 19.

Those barriers will keep the excavated dirt from washing away, but they won’t replace the corn that’s been buried.

Pipeline south of 248th St.
Pipeline south of 248th St.

North and west from the 19 crossing, just a couple miles west of Buffalo Trading Post on 248th Street, Michels has connected some sections of the pipeline.

Island Lake, with Dakota Access Pipeline construction route visible near northeastern shore, 2016.06.25.
Island Lake, with Dakota Access Pipeline construction route visible near northeastern shore, 2016.06.25.

Just over the hill from that crossing, folks were out boating and fishing on Island Lake. In sight of the northeastern shore is the pipeline construction route.


Standing water near Dakota Access Orland crossing.
Standing water in crop near Dakota Access Orland crossing.

Up in Lake County, Dakota Access crosses 451st Avenue just north of Orland. Here Michels had to pump water out of the trench to get some work done. The water appears to have spread out beyond the construction easement onto the surrounding cropland.

Orland farmer Charlie Johnson tells me he met with Dakota Access public liaison Eric Munz to review the layout of drainage tile lines in the Orland township farmland that Dakota Access traverses. Johnson said Michels Construction had already severed one tile line and had left it unrepaired and spilling water for several weeks. Johnsons says Munz granted him and his contractor permission to review the final repairs will eventually make to severed tile lines. The next morning, public liaison Munz sent Johnson this message:

I just want to clarify a couple things about our conversation yesterday. I had explained to you that DAPL is required to restore the tile to pre-construction condition including taking measures so it does not sag or settle. I also stated they will use a tile bridge (Mad Dog Foam Bridge) and will run a scope to inspect as well as following the Aggicultural Impact Mitigation Plan which you stated you are familiar with. You and Alan questioned several times why DAPL was not willing to go beyond their legal responsibilities to “do the right thing” or be ethical in regards to the letter your attorney sent and the request to have your tile contractor approve their methods of repair. I suggested part of the reason may be due to the fact they do not agree with or believe some things to be true that you have put on social media and the fact that you oppose the pipeline. I offered to alert you as much in advance as I can of when the tile repairs will be performed and to be present at that time to document conversations between you, your tile repair contractor and the people involved in tile repair [Dakota Access Pipeline public liaison Eric Munz, e-mail to Charlie Johnson, 2016.06.21].

Translation: Dakota Access may favor some landowners with better treatment than others based on whether they support the pipeline and keep their mouths shut.

On Wednesday, June 22, Michels Construction severed Charlie Johnson’s six-inch tile line. The next morning, water was still spilling out of the cut tile line, filling the pipeline trench and inundating adjoining farmland where Johnson is trying to grow oats and alfalfa.

When Johnson heads to town, perhaps he will imagine an alternative route for Dakota Access:

Highway 34 rebuild, Madison, SD, 2016.06.25.
That’s not the pipeline route; that’s Highway 34 all torn up in Madison. But think about it: instead of tearing up farm fields, Dakota Access could have run that pipeline right through town, alongside the sewer lines….

14 Responses to Notes from the Field: Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing Lake and Farm Country

  1. Paul Seamans

    This story ties in with the Henry Red Cloud story. It shows the need for new leadership on the PUC. The PUC has allowed Dakota Access to start construction without all of their permits. DAPL still needs permits to cross 3% of the route controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. This includes the crossing of the Missouri River near Cannonball ND. Energy Transfer Partners is arrogant enough to assume that they will get the Corps permit.

  2. mike from iowa

    Erosion/run-off mitigation can’t stop the spread of tickle grass.

    Dakota Access got their widdle feelers hurt,huh. Too bad. They can go cry in their profits.

  3. Solid NIMBY article. Lots of good content.

  4. Paul Seamans

    Dicta, I am a solid believer in NIMBY. Especially when it involves enriching some corporation at my expense and causing a threat to my drinking water.

  5. Charlie Johnson

    Update–The Johnsons were allowed to view the tile repair project on Friday of last week. Our contractor was unable to be on site since he had a prior appointment and we only had about a 2 hour notice. The repairs being done seem to be in order. But again, cooperation could have started back in April of 2015 when our attorney wrote their lead land agent, Susan Bergman. The letter detailing our concerns about organic certification and tile systems never was answered. Until now with Eric Munz help,there has been little or no communication and understanding from DAPL since that initial letter.

  6. Two hours’ notice? Wow, thanks for that courtesy. Dakota Access acts like it owns the land… which, thanks to our courts’ poor interpretation of eminent domain, they kinda do.

  7. Very foolish of Mr. Munz to put those comments in writing.

  8. That hamburger photo is incredible.

  9. mike from iowa

    I’d be interested in finding out if that pipe is approved to handle partially eaten hamburgers. I’m betting it isn’t and that is a violation PUC prolly didn’t approve.

  10. Charlie johnson

    My earlier post was not clear. Up until Eric Munz involvement there has been no cooperation from DAPL . There also needs to be legislation holding owners of field tile systems harmless from legal responsibility in the case of an oil leak directing contamination to creeks, stream, rivers, and lakes . Especially since DAPL has compromised the system by severing lines. btw . The DAPL tile consultant told me that DAPL is severing on average 14 tile lines each day .

  11. Thanks, Kai! I just take what the world gives me. There it was.

    Charlie, when the dig is done, what signs will you be looking for to show whether DAPL properly repaired all of those tile lines? Will it be as simple as seeing whether water is standing in the fields or not?

    And indeed, crossing so many tile lines, I would think that creates the possibility of moving contamination from a leak very quickly far from the point of leakage.

  12. One thing I noticed was the info printed inside the pipeline. If you look at the picture with the sandwich, that pipe was manufactured in 3/2015, with the project stamp DAPL. If I recall right, the pipeline was not approved until early this year.

  13. Correction: With the DENR finding 80% of our waterways unfit for intended purposes we need to jump the fossil fuel tracks and join the renewable energy line. Stop building pipelines and construct the national power grid and wind farms.

  14. Good eye, Jon! Recall that Dakota Access was stockpiling pipe all over East River in spring 2015, well before they received approval:

    I imagine if we had nixed their permit, they would have sued us the way TransCanada is suing the U.S. for shutting down Keystone XL.