Letter to the editor: Paths in woods get closer scrutiny than Bakken pipeline

In March 2015 the Iowa Utilities Board approved construction of the Bakken pipeline, which crosses 18 Iowa counties. Source: Dakota Access LLC

To the editor:

I retired as trails coordinator from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources after 30 years of public service. I have worked across the state with the Army Corps of Engineers, Native American people and many other government organizations.

During this time I managed millions of dollars for trail development on state land. I also represented the people of Iowa on state and federal trail grant committees awarding multi-millions of dollars.

If the DNR wanted to build a new hiking trail — a foot trail, not a concrete bicycle trail, just a trail in the woods — if we even wanted to move an existing trail 12 feet to one side or the other in order to reduce erosion, we would be required to go through more scrutiny than the Bakken pipeline will receive.

To build the trail would require an official agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Transportation, many Native American tribes, the State Historical Preservation Office and would have to meet various other federal government requirements related to the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Endangered Species Act, Sovereign Lands Construction Permit and Floodplain permits.

As of February 2015, many of the permits for this pipeline had not even been applied for. Trail projects required environmental review, and it rarely happened sooner than three years after starting the paperwork permitting process.

How can a hiking trail project less than a 100 feet in length take longer and receive more oversight than this hazardous 1,134 mile long pipeline?

Mark Edwards, Boone


  1. Excellent question and I’d love to know the answer! What could be less intrusive than a hiking trail? And what could cause more potential environmental damage than a leaking pipeline in a place where local support is nil? Give me a break! This is a very convoluted process that does not serve anyone!

  2. I am also very interested in how we can think it is ok to put up industrial wind turbines in residential areas without the environmental studies and without full disclosure of the dangers of these turbines will bring to the town.

  3. How do wind turbines cause an environmental impact? The are wind driven. The Bakken pipeline seems to be a pet project of our King Governor Branstad, who seems to lean towards eminent domain for this purpose. In this case eminent domain makes no sense since it only contributes to possible disaster to Iowa in future and no benefit since none of the oil would benefit Iowa residents. Our King has decreed it to be so even though the people who study the issue feel it is risk with no benefit to us.

  4. Considering the fact that Dakota Access was only incorporated in March of 2014, how many pipelines could they have installed? Would you subject HEALTHY members of your family to major surgery from someone who had never operated before?

  5. I worked for the DNR’s Environmental Protection Division about 20 years ago. I had THAT job because petroleum storage tanks and their pipes leak. Those of us in that DNR section were involved in overseeing groundwater cleanup from those sites. It is very expensive to clean up a petroleum spill. Groundwater must be pumped and filtered to remove the toxins. Soils must also be handled as toxic waste and either cleaned or – buried. The leaks happen due to weak electrical currents that are generated between soil ions and the metal of the pipes and tanks. The weak electrical current eats tiny holes in the metal. The little holes get bigger until there is a failure. The parent company, Texas Transfer Partners, have no experience in moving such explosive, corrosive materials.

    Each little spill site cost a minimum of $25K. How is it that NOW some in Iowa think it is okay to just let Dakota Access LLC rip through the state and only post a paltry $25K bond? Each foot of that pipe ought to carry a $25K minimum liability assurance bond. The LLC designation should also worry: the governor, the legislature, all Iowans. LLC – “Limited Liability.” They can walk away and stick taxpayers with the cost of cleanup.

    Calling Branstad “King” in one of the other posts was accurate. He thinks he can do as he pleases because he was enthroned by the wealthy, including the Rastetter boys who funded his campaign in 2010. Why? They were happy to get a puppet. One wonders what we’d find in the portfolios of these barons. Could there be ties to Texas oil? Branstad sure likes Rick Perry. Up to a point, money insulates people from bearing responsibility for their actions. Maybe this time King Terry went too far.


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