Nation & World

Despite protests, pipeline under Mississippi River complete

Lee County monitor says demonstrators there had little impact on the work

Protesters huddle together after singing songs and chanting as a pipeline worker drives a bulldozer at the border of the
Protesters huddle together after singing songs and chanting as a pipeline worker drives a bulldozer at the border of the Dakota Access pipeline construction site Oct. 6 in Montrose. Protesters were evicted from the land they previously had occupied. (Erin Lefevre/The Hawk Eye)

BURLINGTON — While the fate of the mostly completed Dakota Access pipeline remains unsettled, the portion that burrows under the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois is finished.

The 30-inch diameter underground pipeline spawned a monthslong protest near a worksite in southeast Iowa’s Sandusky. The $3.7 million pipeline is expected to transport about 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

While nationally-watched protests raged near the Missouri River in North Dakota, pipeline work was completed in Lee County despite rising numbers this fall in the local protest group.

Now, as the year ends, there are about 32 miles of pipeline installed in Lee County. Installation inspector Ryan Drenner reports that the pipeline is essentially finished in Lee County.

“As for the testing of the pipe through Lee County, all the testing’s been done,” Drenner said. “All the anomalies have been taken care of. On our side of it, it’s pretty much just seeing how it winters, coming back to look at some drain tiles and then addressing any kind of erosion.”

Earlier this month, construction of a segment in North Dakota was stopped by the Army Corps of Engineers, which decided not to permit drilling under a portion of the Missouri River as planned. Protesters joining the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe argued the route would threaten drinking water supplies and endanger sacred lands.

Pipeline owner Dakota Access has vowed to complete the pipeline along its current route.

Drenner was hired by the county to protect landowner rights as the pipeline was being installed. Construction started back in May.

The pipeline is meant to carry crude oil from Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a refinery in Patoka, Ill., crossing 18 Iowa counties.

The project was to bring about 4,000 temporary jobs and about 15 permanent jobs to Iowa.

However, there is much disagreement over whether it’s worth it.

Protesters who eventually called themselves the Mississippi Stand fought the construction in Lee County. The protesters were worried that an oil spill could flow into the Mississippi River, polluting thousands of miles of American waters and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline bores well under the river as it crosses.

The protest hit a milestone in August when Jessica Reznicek, 35, was arrested after blocking a road to the worksite.

The next month, about 100 protesters joined her for a march in Sandusky.

Their numbers grew to about 150 later in September. But 40 were arrested there Sept. 20 after another protest.

From there, the protest shrunk to a core group of between 30 and 40. Eventually, an eviction notice pushed the protesters out of their roadside camp. They temporarily moved to a farm home, but then soon moved to their latest protest site.

Protesters parked a recreational vehicle at a small road leading off U.S. 61 near Montrose. They used chains and other devices to affix themselves to the RV, under it, on top of it and on the ground behind it.

Drenner said the protesters did not have a noticeable affect on local pipeline installation.

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