HJ/EDMarch 27, 2006

Plans inching along for proposed pipeline

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Proposed crude oil pipeline plans were met with mixed feelings by area residents.

Informational meetings were held in both Meeker and Wright Counties to discuss plans and concerns regarding the proposed Canadian crude oil pipeline.

Members of the MinnCan Project, Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Public Utilities Commission discussed the proposed pipeline project and answered questions.

The three-hour meeting consisted of an open house and discussion about the project and the affected property owners.

Property owners are upset over what was perceived as low compensation they will be given for easements for the permanent usage of their land.

George Ruhland of Eden Valley is open to the project but has arguments pertaining to the compensation and is upset he wasn’t contacted prior to the meetings.

His son, for example, was offered $5,400 for a quarter mile or 1,320 feet. This is only $4 per foot. This is a one-time payment, he said.

Ruhland feels this will devalue his property if he would ever want to develop it.

“They simply aren’t paying us enough for the permanent use of our property,” Ruhland said.

In 1999, a negotiation team was created of residents affected by the 36-inch Alliance natural gas pipeline. Residents received between $25 to $50 per foot, according to Winthrop resident Carey Remus whose 10-acres was used.

“It depends on the crop type and the amount of damages,” he said.

Another concerned resident, Ken Posusta of Glencoe, has attended the six meetings including Meeker and Wright and urges residents not to sign negotiations until they know the facts.

His parents own land in Lester Prairie that will be affected by the pipeline.

“The pipeline should be compensating on a yearly basis instead of a one-time fee,” Posusta said.

According to MinnCan’s spokesperson, Patty Dunn, the already existing pipeline easements are too close to developments and in some areas the 65-foot easement includes three pipelines 15 feet apart.

“There isn’t enough room for another pipeline,” Dunn said.

Meetings lead by MinnCan

Larry Hartman of the Minnesota Department of Commerce began the meeting with the project requirements and permit process for MinnCan.

Larry Van Horn, project manager for the MinnCan Project, informed residents about the project plans and how the 300-mile pipeline would affect property owners.

Hartman explained that property owners affected by the 50-foot right-of-way can submit suggestions for an alternative route to the PUC for consideration.

Alternative proposed routes must be set with an appropriate map and a description of the impact of the pipeline’s right-of-way.

Proposals must be submitted to the PUC by 4:30 p.m. May 30 to: Sharon Ferguson, Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55101-2198 or faxed to (651) 297-1959.

Minnesota Pipeline Company will compensate affected property owners for the purchase of an easement. The company will then pay the affected counties annual property taxes on those easements.

Meeker County will generate an estimated $680,000 to $1,105,000 and Wright County will receive an estimated $216,000 to $351,000 annually in local property taxes from those easements. Property taxes are required by state law for all public utilities including electrical and railroad, according to Meeker County Assessor Bob Anderson.

Property owners will be contacted and visited within two to four weeks for individual easement negotiations, according to Dunn.

Negotiations will depend on crop size, land size, type of land and the uses of it, but will be consistent across the board, Dunn said.

According to MinnCan, there will be 100 percent compensation for crops lost due to the construction.

If the permit is granted by the PUC, construction could begin in June 2007.

The time of construction for each property varies but is estimated to be six to eight weeks including cleanup.

Construction schedule will be announced to property owners in advance and local tilers will be used, according to Van Horn.

Easements will include 50 feet but temporary easements for construction will be 100 feet. Landowners are able to farm or use the land after the pipeline is laid, except for any permanent construction or maintenance on the right-of-way, according to Van Horn.

The 24 inch pipeline will rest 4.5 feet under ground and one foot below the drain tile.

The proposed pipeline is 40 miles longer than the current route and will cost Minnesota Pipe Line Company $300,000 million in expansion and construction, not including property taxes.

In determining the proposed route several factors were considered according to Dunn, including avoiding farmsteads, residences and residential developments as much as possible; use as much of the existing pipeline and utility quarters as possible; minimize environmental impact by avoiding lakes and wetland; and using the shortest route possible.

“This isn’t the shortest route, but it’s the route that makes the most sense for the State of Minnesota,” Dunn said.

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