DES MOINES — Iowa regulators in a split vote on Monday gave a Texas oil company the green light to begin construction of an interstate crude oil pipeline on Iowa land where the company has all the necessary permissions.
The Iowa Utilities Board ruling covers the vast majority of the 346 miles of pipeline route through 18 Iowa counties from northwest to southeast, and company officials said work will begin immediately after receiving a signed order. The ruling will be official and pipeline developer Dakota Access can be begin construction when the board signs the order, which is expected by Tuesday.
“We will begin construction in the appropriate areas immediately upon receiving the signed order from the Iowa Utilities Board,” Dakota Access spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger said, noting her company has secured voluntary easement agreements on 89 percent of the Iowa properties.
The company plans to have the pipeline in service by the end of the year. The company declined to provide the schedule of construction sites but noted several sites will be on going at the same time across the route.
Dakota Access sought special permission to begin construction in Iowa because the March 10 Iowa Utilities Board order granting a hazardous liquid pipeline permit required all permits must be in hand before construction begins. The Army Corps of Engineers still is reviewing some parcels under its jurisdiction.
“The intent (of the Iowa Utilities Board permit) is satisfied and I would grant a motion to commence construction in areas where Dakota Access has all other authorizations,” Iowa Utilities Board Commissioner Nick Wagner said before the board voted.
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Wagner and Libby Jacobs voted to support the construction request, while board chairwoman Geri Huser voted against. At an earlier meeting Huser questioned whether the Iowa Utilities Board had jurisdiction and whether its process would be jeopardized.
The 1,168-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline will carry up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from northwest North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois. Construction has already begun in the other states. About 4,000 trade workers per state are expected to be put to work.
After the meeting, about 50 or 60 critics of the project assembled on the state capitol grounds nearby to the Iowa Utilities Board office to protest the vote. Several lawsuits have been filed to block the pipeline, including a lawsuit filed by nine landowners and another by the Sierra Club.
One hurdle for Dakota Access could be a parcel along the pipeline route in the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area in Lyon County. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued a “stop work order” after issuing a permit in March conditional on authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The service revoked authorization after learning the land may contain human remains in sacred tribal burial grounds.
The Iowa State Archaeologist John Doershuk visited the site on Friday with state, federal and tribal officials and followed up by email on Saturday stating the site should not be disturbed. He said it has “significant cultural and historical importance to the Upper Sioux Community, Standing Rock, and other Sioux.”
“The Office of the State Archaeologist recommends that 13LO335 (parcel number) be considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under at least criterion D and also protected under the Iowa Code sections protecting ancient human remains,” Doershuk wrote. “The site is to be avoided and protected in place.”