BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – An official with the company overseeing the replacement of property disrupted by the installation of the Dakota Pipeline said all work in the county is stopping this week.
Lester Caldwell, project manager for Chippewa Resources, told Lee County Supervisors that workers helping to restore land where the pipeline was built are leaving for the rest of the summer due in part to the dry stretch that is preventing reseeding efforts.
“Tentatively we’ll be finishing in Lee County today,” Caldwell told the board at Tuesday’s regular meeting. “I haven’t gotten the word yet, but hopefully they will be back in the fall. There have been some seeding issues where we don’t have vegetation growing. Honestly, I think this ditch is going to continue to settle.”
Supervisor Don Hunold had informed the board at an earlier meeting that Dakota had been trying to reseed in several locations along the construction in Lee County, but the dry conditions were preventing any regrowth and the company was considering stopping because they were just throwing money away on efforts that weren’t working.
Supervisor Matt Pflug asked Caldwell how many issues are still active in the county with property owners.
“Too many to count,” Caldwell said. “Lots of landowners are in negotiations with the pipeline to fix the issues themselves. I’m going to let everyone know today (that I’m leaving the area) that I know are in negotiations with the Pipeline. That way if there are any issues, I’m only six hours away.”
Supervisor Ron Fedler said he hasn’t had any complaints from his district in the county, but Hunold said he has had quite a few but they are being currently being handled by the pipeline company.
In a related topic, Supervisor Gary Folluo asked Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise if the county has heard back regarding a letter sent from the Lee County Attorney’s office regarding reimbursement for costs associated with the construction.
Specifically, the county had requested Dakota reimburse the county for all costs associated with law enforcement efforts to patrol the pipeline and remove protestors.
Lee County Deputy Sheriff Will Conlee told the board those costs were between $4,000 and $5,000.
Folluo said it was agreed upon that there would be no cost to the county for the construction of the pipeline and those costs should be reimbursed. Fraise said she had not received a response to the letter sent.
In other action, the board:
• approved two shoulder replacement projects out of West Point. The first being X23 from West Point to Hwy 2 and the other on J40 from West Point to Hwy 218. Both projects will receive state Transportation Safety Improvement Project funds from the state. The J40 project will also use federal highway safety funds to pay for the work. The shoulders will be resurfaced with rumble strips on both sides.
• approved Dr. Craig Huston, from Great River Medical Center, as the county Medical Examiner in a two-year multi-county agreement. Lee County will share Huston’s services with Des Moines and Henry counties. Pflug said several board members had been receiving phone calls from funeral directors confused over the new process and getting signatures on death certificates. Fraise said the state was still setting up the electronic signature for Huston, but he was in the position effective July 1. The county is still negotiating the separation of retiring medical examiner Eugenio Torres who is currently in Nicaragua.