BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – Now that the mandated public information meeting is checked off, land agents working with a Texas pipeline company can start negotiating for land easement rights for a 14-mile anhydrous ammonia pipeline extension in the county.
NuStar Pipeline Operations Partnership L.P. spoke to about 130 people at Small Grand Things south of West Point for about two hours Tuesday night as part of a required public information meeting moderated by Geri Huser, chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board.
The meeting is a requirement under Iowa Code before any land negotiations can take place, or before NuStar can even file a permit with the state for the pipeline extension. According to Iowa Code, NuStar cannot petition the IUB for a permit until 30 days after Tuesday’s hearing.
After the petition is filed, a two-week publication runs in a local paper in the county affected. That notice will lay out the time, date, and location of a required evidentiary hearing, where landowners can present evidence to the IUB in favor of or opposed to the proposed project.
The IUB’s decision is based on the record created at that evidentiary hearing.
The company already has 8-inch piping in the south part of the county up to Fort Madison. This new extension would include a 6″ pipe that would run along a corridor similar to the Hwy. 61 bypass around from the west side of Fort Madison to the north, and then east to IFC
The pipe will have a maximum pressure of 1,480 pounds per square inch.
Robb Aultman, the plant manager at IFCo, said the new pipeline will be reversible at the connection to the plant so that Iowa Fertilizer can add extra anhydrous ammonia to the line in the event the plant has over production, as well as drawing from the line during needed times if production is low to continue to fill trucks locally.
He said the new pipeline extension will help IFCo provide more of the needed fertilizer it creates to local farmers.
Landowners were able to ask questions about the impact of a 75-foot construction path through the county on individual property.
Coette Gida, a property owner on the northwest side of the corridor, said the pipeline will cut across her property and the work proposed would affect about 30% of her property, including a pond and some organic crops she is considering planting.
Gida said she didn’t get the answers Tuesday she was looking for.
“They’re gonna take 1/3 of my property. So, no, they said they didn’t know the answers and the would have to look into it,” Gida said.
She asked how the pond would be affected by the construction of the pipeline, which typically is set about four feet under ground. She also wanted to know the impact on organic crops.
Lee County Supervisor Chairman Matt Pflug was at the meeting and said it was similar to the informational meeting that Dakota Pipeline held before they built that pipeline through the county.
“We went through all this with the Dakota Access Pipeline, so a lot of this we’ve already heard,” Pflug said. “But we were very blessed to have Chippewa Resources inspecting that work for the county. They were so good with the landowners.”
The county will again have to hire an independent inspector to oversee construction and make sure private county residents in the corridor are made whole by the pipeline company for any disturbance to the land.
The cost of the county’s inspector is covered by the pipeline company.
Pflug said he wasn’t aware of how the additional section of pipeline would impact the county’s valuation, or the value of the private property. He also said the pressure in the pipe was concerning to him.
“What does that do to the valuation of the individual properties. If you go to sell that property and you say, ‘well, I’ve got this gas line running through here’ – is it as marketable? And you’re talking about a lot more psi going through this pipe than Dakota. 1,400 is a lot,” Pflug said.
Other questions focused on the environmental impact, the impact to farmers on the CRP contracts, and how safety training will be conducted and paid for.
NuStar spokesman Gary Koegeboehn said the company has pressure monitors at set locations along the pipeline and can shut sections down in a matter of minutes if a leak, or sudden drop in pressure, is alerted in the system monitoring.
He said there are already protocols in place for emergencies and trainings due to the county already having anhydrous piping present.
The proposed timeline is for the easement acquisition to take place this fall. In the spring of 2022 NuStar plans to file the permit with the IUB with construction set to begin in Summer of 2023 and the pipeline in service by fall of 2023.
NuStar plans to maintain a permanent 30-foot easement after construction and is planning on paying property owners 100% of the valuation of that property, with 10% up front and 90% when construction starts.
They will also offer a payment equal to 20% of the valuation for temporary easements during construction.
Crop damage will be paid equal to 240% of damage, with payments in the first year equaling 100% of crop loss, 80% for crop loss in year two and 60% for crop loss in year three. They also will include payments for unanticipated damages to drain tile, fencing or injury/loss of livestock.