116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Bobbye McNish was elated when she got a letter Nov. 1 saying the white oak tree she owns, just 50 yards from the Mississippi River in Lee County, was on track to be the state’s largest of its kind.
Elation turned to dismay a few days later when she got another letter saying the property was on or near the proposed route of an underground carbon dioxide pipeline.
“I’m thinking, ”No! Don’t destroy this tree that I had come to realize has some historical value,“ said McNish, 67, who lives in Texas, but still owns the Lee County land where her grandparents and parents lived. ”It’s such a small community. We want to be proud of the things we have in our small towns.“
This story was first reported by the Daily Gate City in Keokuk.
The pipeline builder now says the oak is not in the route’s direct path, at least for now.
McNish remembers visiting her grandparents at their cottage, where she could see the moon shine on the river. The white oak, likely planted before 1850, was on the neighboring property, at that time owned by Sen. Stanley L. Hart, a Republican who served in the Iowa Senate from 1937 to 1953.
McNish’s parents bought that parcel in 1986 and McNish and her sister inherited the land, which now is rented out to a family who also loves the big white oak, she said.
Navigator CO2 Ventures, a Texas company, is proposing a 1,300-mile pipeline that would pass through 36 Iowa counties capturing carbon dioxide at ethanol and fertilizer plants. The gas would be put under pressure, turned into liquid and piped to a site in south-central Illinois. In addition to Linn, Benton, Cedar, Delaware and Iowa counties in the Corridor, the pipeline also would go through Lee County before going under the Mississippi River to Illinois.
The Navigator project is one of three proposed CO2 pipelines proposed for Iowa.
Landowners on or near the proposed Navigator route got letters last fall telling them about the company’s plan to pay for easements to build the underground pipeline. Navigator wants to have voluntary easements, but has not ruled out asking the Iowa Utilities Board for eminent domain powers to force a sale.
McNish allowed Dakota Access an easement in 2016 to install its underground petroleum pipeline, and she believes Navigator is following a similar corridor as did Dakota Access.
“I’ve informed them about the tree.” she said of Navigator. “They say they take it into consideration.”
The white oak is only the state’s third-largest of its species now, but it’s growing faster than the No. 2 tree and the No. 1 tree has a number of dead limbs, said Mark Rouw, who maintains Iowa's list of state champion trees and their runners-up as an unpaid volunteer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Navigator spokesman Andy Bates said in an email this week the oak is not in the direct path of the pipeline at this time.
“As a part of Navigator's initial routing protocols, we consult a variety of databases — including the Big Tree Registry published by the Iowa DNR — to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and landmarks,” he wrote in an email. “The tree in question was certainly avoided, but I cannot confirm if such preemptive action occurred before or after being contacted by Bobbye McNish.”
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