New Keystone XL Pipeline Route Outlined


by Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter


OMAHA (DTN) — Production agriculture in the Nebraska Sandhills would see limited interruptions as a result of the proposed reroute of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to a new report from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.


NDEQ's final report to Gov. Dave Heineman Friday considers the project's potential effects on crop insurance, the ability for farmers to secure bank loans, how the pipeline would affect livestock and crop production and irrigation systems, and whether the pipeline would affect lands enrolled in conservation programs.


Back in May, TransCanada announced a new corridor that is said to go around the Sandhills in north-central Nebraska. The new corridor was developed after the Obama administration rejected the company's first proposed corridor because it would have crossed the ecologically fragile Sandhills.


An alliance of farmers, ranchers and environmentalists joined forces to oppose the pipeline. They feared future oil spills could endanger economically important water supplies in north-central Nebraska.


Heineman will have 30 days to study the 2,000-page report before making a decision on whether the new route eases public concerns about potential aquifer contamination and interruption of critical habitats in the Nebraska Sandhills, according to a news release from the governor's office.


“I appreciate the feedback that we have received from citizens, and the hard work of the department of environmental quality in addressing this issue in a thoughtful and deliberate manner,” Heineman stated. “I will now carefully review this report over the next several weeks.”


Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, said her group is concerned the new route still crosses the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sandhills. Bold Nebraska is part of a group that has sued Gov. Heineman and other state officials challenging the constitutionality of the process used to develop a new route.


“Gov. Heineman asked President Obama to deny the pipeline permit, because the route crossed the Ogallala aquifer,” she said in a statement.


“We continue to stand with Gov. Heineman and his valid concerns on the risks of this pipeline route to farmers and ranchers' livelihoods and our water. We look forward to the governor denying the route since it still crosses the aquifer and the risks to our state's economy and identity remain at the forefront of this fight.”




During a public comment period, farmers expressed concern about how the construction and operation of the pipeline would affect production agriculture on a number of fronts.


Landowners questioned whether they would be able to irrigate during construction, since the angular range of pivot irrigation could be limited.


“Compensation for anticipated yield reduction would be negotiated with the landowner prior to construction,” NDEQ said in its report. “After construction, there would be no restrictions on irrigation; however, the impoundment of water over the easement would not be allowed.”


As part of easement acquisition, NDEQ said farmers would be compensated for loss of income when “fields cannot be farmed or pastures cannot be grazed, either as a result of temporary construction activities or permanent acquisition of property at pump stations or other related ancillary facilities.”


The state also received several questions about how or if the pipeline route would affect crop insurance coverage.


“NDEQ investigated this concern and determined that crop insurance rates would not be affected by construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” the report said.


“Crop damages from human-caused disturbances, such as construction of the pipeline, are not insurable and are not factors in determining insurance rates. Keystone has stated that they would negotiate with landowners regarding compensation for any damage caused by construction or maintenance of the pipeline.”


NDEQ said construction could affect coverage on future crop insurance claims, especially for those farmers who buy actual production history policies.


“The APH would be affected by a loss of production caused by pipeline construction,” the report said. “Crop production would be affected by disturbance of crops and soil in the construction easement and by loss of ability to irrigate. The loss of production caused by pipeline construction would not be covered by crop insurance (Keystone has committed to paying crop producers for crop damage caused by construction).”


NDEQ said lower production caused by pipeline construction would affect the APH for 10 years, “thus affecting the amount received by the crop producer on any claim in that 10-year period.”


In addition, NDEQ said it anticipates that crop production would be affected for one season with an estimated reduction in yields of less than 1{aba118130c6fd8e2ecbb0794b1b72bc5fb8b922034e94cf4553b4753615b7b68} in the affected counties.




Concerns were raised that pipeline construction easements could affect farmers' ability to secure bank loans for agricultural land.


The report said the project could have a “slight effect” on land values and “thus the value of collateral being loaned against because of limitations” on land use in easements.


“The value of the remainder of the land would not be materially affected,” the report said. “This would depend on how the easement might divide the land and the convenience of using the land not in the easement. However, the effect of the easement on the value of the land would be slight, because the land in the easement could still be used for crop production.”


Pipeline construction would temporarily affect about 2,800 acres including mostly agriculture land. The report said crop production would be affected for one season and that landowners would be “compensated for crop yield loss and grazing production impacts.”


When it comes to livestock production, NDEQ said there would be “disturbance of pastures and grasslands” during construction.


This could mean that access to pastures on either side of the route could be temporarily limited in some areas, NDEQ said.


This means grazing operations might need to be relocated to other pasture areas during construction.


“Production of livestock would also be affected by disturbances to stock watering systems during construction,” NDEQ said.




Organic Nebraska farmers raised concerns the project could affect crop certification, which depends on farmers' ability to meet USDA organic requirements.


“Regarding certified organic farms, Keystone has made the following commitments: Keystone would take reasonable steps to identify organic farms along the project route,” NDEQ said.


“Where Keystone is made aware of the presence of certified organic farms along the project route prior to construction, Keystone would work with those organic farm operations to ensure the pipeline construction does not impair the farm's organic status. If the project crosses an organic farm, Keystone will work with the landowner to take reasonable steps to avoid mixing organic soil and non-organic soil.”




NDEQ said in its report that about 69{aba118130c6fd8e2ecbb0794b1b72bc5fb8b922034e94cf4553b4753615b7b68} of cropland in the construction easement corridor is irrigated.


Irrigation systems would be “adversely affected” in that the use of irrigation could be limited during construction. The report said TransCanada would work to maintain irrigation systems and outlines a number of steps to be taken during construction.


When it comes to water quality, the report said Keystone would conduct baseline water quality testing for domestic and livestock wells within 300 feet of the final centerline of the approved route when individual landowners request tests.


NDEQ received a number of public comments asking whether the pipeline project could affect the status of lands enrolled in USDA conservation programs. The report said “much of the lands enrolled in USDA conservation programs would be avoided.”


However, NDEQ said construction on the new route would affect about 26 acres of conservation reserve programs land. In addition, there is about 1,200 acres of land enrolled in the grasslands reserve program in Holt County.


“However, the location of this site is not available and it cannot be determined whether the site would be affected by construction of the Nebraska reroute,” NDEQ said.


View the full NDEQ report, CLICK HERE.




© Copyright 2013 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp




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