BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – After hearing from a resident concerned with the impact of the pipeline construction on agriculture land, Lee County Supervisors on Monday endorsed revisions to Iowa code giving more control to inspectors.
At last week’s Lee County Board meeting, resident Kevin Hohl spoke up about the upcoming pipeline installations and how the last construction by Dakota Access was what he called a “disaster”.
Currently there are two pipelines being proposed for Lee County, one is the NuStar Anhydrous ammonia pipeline with pressures of up to 1,400 pounds per square inch. The other is the Heartland Greenway carbon recapture pipeline. Both will have substantial footprints in the county.
On Monday, the county board approved a letter to the Iowa Utilities Board, at Hohl’s urging, in support of proposed revisions that have been submitted to the IUB to consider as part of the utility board’s Instructions for County Inspectors Manual and Iowa Code Chapter 9.5
The letter signed by all supervisors references the county’s involvement with the Dakota Access Pipeline Project and dissatisfaction some property owners had with how their land was treated.
“We have heard from many landowners that are not satisfied with how their land was restored during and after construction,” the letter indicates.
Included in the revisions is language that would allow the county inspectors, who are hired by the county but paid for by the pipeline companies, to stop work if the ground becomes too saturated during wet conditions.
“The ability for the inspector to halt operations during wet conditions would prevent rutting or further damage to the soil and we are very much in favor of this,” the letter indicated.
Supervisor Ron Fedler said the letter isn’t discouraging the construction of the pipelines, but supports giving landowners more control and rights.
“Just so people understand, it’s not saying we’re not going to let people put pipelines through Lee County or Iowa, it’s to make it so landowners have more protection and rights for their land and that’s what’s really important,” he said.
“Some of them felt that when Dakota Access came through that they never really got that protection. Afterwards they found out that any problems they had after three years, the pipeline company wasn’t liable.”
Supervisor Garry Seyb said the recommendations included new authorizations that gave inspectors the ability to stop all work in rainy and wet conditions.
“I believe it said that any time that heavy equipment was making a rut bigger than 12 inches, the inspector had the ability to stop all work on that project so you didn’t have that memory in the ground from those big ruts. So I know I’m very much in support of this,” he said.
Fedler motioned to approve sending the letter of support and it passed unanimously 4-0.
In an unrelated issue, the board also approved an agreement with Southeast Iowa Regional Economic & Port Authority to provide $1.95 million of the county’s America Rescue Plan Act funds as part of a $5.5 million, 57-mile fiber optic backbone in Lee County. The agreement passed unanimously.
SIREPA administrator Mike Norris said the project came about because of great planning on the part of Lee County Economic Development group and the county.
“I want to make sure everyone knows this process began with good planning. Lee County Economic Development initiated this planning process with SIREPA and Danville Teleco and we’re going to continue to do that planning,” Norris said.
“I don’t want you to think it’s going to stop here. We’re still continuing to move forward.”
The agreement provides for close to $1 million in lease payments back to SIREPA from Danville Telecom that can be used to leverage additional broadband improvements in the county.
Seyb said the project is the second largest project SIREPA has been involved in, including helping Lee County Economic Development Group move into their new facility in Montrose.
“This is their second huge project, a big project in Lee County, and they are really making a mark for themselves with the state, while really helping out Lee County,” Seyb said.