BISMARCK, N.D. — An early proposal for the Dakota Access pipeline called for the route to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, N.D. — but one reason that was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply, documents show.
Now a growing number of protesters are objecting to the oil pipeline’s Missouri River crossing a half-mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which they argue could threaten the water supply for the tribe and other communities.
Early in the planning, Dakota Access considered but eliminated an alternative that would have crossed the river about 10 miles north of Bismarck instead.
The Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the Bismarck route and concluded it was not a viable option for many reasons. One cited was the proximity to wellhead source water protection areas that are avoided to protect municipal water supply wells.
In addition, the Bismarck route would have been 11 miles longer with more road crossings and water and wetland crossings. It also would have been difficult to stay 500 or more feet away from homes, as required by the North Dakota Public Service Commission, the Corps states.
The Bismarck route also would have crossed an area considered by federal pipeline regulators as a “high consequence area” — an area determined to have the most significant adverse impacts in a spill.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe argues that consequences would be severe if the 30-inch pipeline carrying 450,000 barrels of oil per day were to leak near the reservation’s water intake valves. The tribe is suing the Corps over its approval of the water crossing. A hearing is scheduled for next week in Washington, D.C.
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The pipeline, once constructed, will carry crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota across part of South Dakota and 18 counties in Iowa before ending in Illinois.
State regulators did not evaluate the Bismarck route because Dakota Access had selected the current Missouri River crossing when it submitted its application in December 2014, said commission Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak.
A map included in the Dakota Access application has a May 2014 date on the Bismarck route. The proposed route was changed in September 2014 to cross the river near the Standing Rock reservation, according to dates on the documents.
Dakota Access said in a statement that the company conducts extensive surveys of proposed pipeline routes to mitigate impacts and determine the safest route.
The Corps, which issued a permit for the water crossing, said the pipeline will be installed 92 feet below the riverbed with horizontal directional drilling methods to minimize impacts.
The Corps also noted safeguards that will be in place, including remote monitoring of the pipeline and emergency response plans.
“Given the engineering design, proposed installation methodology, quality of material selected, operations measures and response plans the risk of an inadvertent release in, or reaching, Lake Oahe is extremely low,” the Corps said.