TransCanada rep. meets with Haakon County Commission over Keystone XL pipeline

Progress with TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline was discussed when Micheal Calhoun, permit specialist, met with the Haakon County Commission on Monday, September 28.

Calhoun is an employee with Universal Field Services, an independent contractor to TransCanada. His job is to obtain permits from each county the pipeline passes through. These permits include conditional use, road haul agreements, zoning, approaches, and new roads.

Calhoun informed the board that Haakon County would have one pump station within its borders. The exact location has not been selected, but a proposed site has been looked at. The site would be in the northern part of the county. He said Harding and Tripp counties are the only two in South Dakota that will have more than one pump station.

Calhoun noted that pipe- and contractor-yards are also being scouted. The pipe-yards would contain pipe for 30 miles of line. The contractor-yards would house all the offices and tractor-trailers for the contractors. He said all the contractors working on the pipeline will be located in those yards. The workers would be bused to that location from a site near a highway. He stated this would help minimize traffic on county roads. "We are looking for the best and fastest roads to those locations," said Calhoun. He will meet with Kenny Neville, Haakon County highway superintendent, regarding roads.

Calhoun noted that the tractor-trailers bringing in the pipeline would be approximately 110 feet in total length, each load, including tractor and trailer, about 80,000 to 100,000 pounds per load. He added those trucks will need approaches that are 40 to 50 feet wide to be able to turn into the yards. Neville said, "We don't have any roads that will stand up to the loads you're talking about." Calhoun stated that he passes that type of information on to the projects engineers. He added that he has tried to impress upon the project managers to do the work in the winter when the roads are frozen and less damage would occur.

Discussion regarding local traffic meeting pipeline traffic was discussed. Commissioner Gary Snook asked Calhoun about what happens when local traffic meets one of the trucks. He noted it could be a bad situation during the times farm machinery is on the move. Calhoun stated that would be one of the issues that would have to be worked out in the road transportation plan.

Calhoun informed the board that TransCanada had made the decision to bore under county roads. He stated some private roads would be dug. Calhoun said that all roads would be left in the same or better condition when the contractors are finished in Haakon County. He recommended that pictures be taken of the roads prior to pipeline construction. That would be an aid to both parties, he said. All approaches that had been widened would be taken back to the original width; same with roads that had been upgraded. Neville asked if the landowner wished for the new roads and approaches left as constructed, would they be left even if the county did not maintain them. Calhoun stated that would be worked out between the company and the landowner; Haakon County would not be responsible for the upkeep on any private roads or approaches.

Calhoun stated he would like to meet with Neville soon. He thought possibly by the end of next week the locations of the yards would be selected. Calhoun added that two agents are currently in the county meeting with landowners regarding easement acquistions.

Upwards of 2,000 people could be in Haakon County working on the pipeline, said Calhoun. The project has several crews working at the various phases of the project. Commission Chairman Rita O'Connell asked if TransCanada plans to hire any local people.

Calhoun stated that generally the only local people would be fencing crews. He stated that any potential contractors are checked out for their safety history.

Calhoun gave a list of permits that TransCanada has worked with in the past. He stated that if Haakon County does not requirement any specific permit, the company would like an affidavit stating such. Haakon County State's Attorney Gay Tollefson said she would review the list with Neville and draw up an affidavit(s) for the ones Haakon County does not require.

Calhoun stated that Trans-Canada follows either the county or state requirement; whichever is the more stringent. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission requires TransCanada to have a $15 million dollar bond to operate in South Dakota. This would then protect Haakon County, so the county would not have to require a bond as well. The county would also be protected through the bond for weed control. For environmental issues the county would be protected through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.