Reservation leaders question oil pipeline

2011-10-24T06:00:00Z 2011-10-24T09:02:34Z Reservation leaders question oil pipelineRuth Moon Journal staff Rapid City Journal
October 24, 2011 6:00 am  • 

A proposed oil pipeline expansion through western South Dakota will cross a main water source for several Native American reservations and could threaten the water supply, Native American leaders say.

The Keystone XL Pipeline expansion is part of an oil pipeline project funded by TransCanada, a Canada-based energy supply company. The proposal connects Hardisty, Saskatchewan, with Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, and runs across South Dakota from Harding County in the northwest corner to south central Tripp County, according to maps on the TransCanada website. If the project is approved by the U.S. Department of State, construction will begin in January 2012 and finish in 2013, according to the website.

The proposed pipeline will cross the Mni Wiconi Rural Water System pipeline twice, in Haakon County and Jones County, said Arden Freitag, who oversees the pipeline for the federal Bureau of Reclamation. The Mni Wiconi pipes Missouri River water to the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Lower Brule reservations.

The pipeline will also pass through or near burial grounds and other sacred sites that are not on reservations, said Pat Spears, president of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, which coordinates energy policies for many of South Dakota's tribes. Those sacred sites are on land that Native Americans hope will be theirs one day, he said.

"We're looking down the road seven generations," Spears said. "We're making decisions about future impact."

The Mni Wiconi is built on private property through easements which the Bureau of Reclamation holds in trust for tribes, Freitag said. An easement allows the bureau to access land to install and maintain the water pipeline but does not grant ownership rights. The easement grant record for the Jones County land, where the Keystone pipeline will cross the Mni Wiconi, states that the property owner has the right to "cultivate, use and occupy" the land for any reason as long as it does not endanger the Mni Wiconi pipeline.

Freitag said there are two potential problems with crossing the oil and water pipelines. Pipes that cross too near each other can corrode more quickly because of the way metals interact with the soil, and one crossing is near a section of PVC pipeline, which could be damaged by a hot oil spill from the Keystone pipeline. If a section of the Mni Wiconi corrodes, water flow would shut down while it is repaired, Freitag said.

Water in the Mni Wiconi pipeline will probably not be contaminated by any oil spills, Freitag said, because water flows at a high pressure and would flow out of the pipe, not in, if there were a leak.

The Keystone pipeline expansion was supposed to go through the Rosebud Reservation, but reservation officials refused, said Syed Huq, director of the Rosebud rural water system, which is connected to the Mni Wiconi pipeline. Huq said the Keystone expansion will also run near groundwater and an aquifer that provide water to the reservation.

"If it contaminates the groundwater, boy, that's it," said Huq. "It's going to be extremely difficult, almost impossible to clean up the groundwater - that's for sure."

The Mni Wiconi pipeline provides water to about 13,000 people on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, said Frank Means, director of the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System. Several people from Pine Ridge Reservation, including Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellow Bird Steele, protested the pipeline in recent weeks, but Means is more concerned that TransCanada follow safety precautions when they lay the line.

"I know people are opposed to it, especially people on my reservation," Means said. "But if it goes through, whether we like it or not, I've got to make sure that we're prepared."

Contact Ruth Moon at 394-8415 or


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(5) Comments

  1. Sasha
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    Sasha - October 24, 2011 2:06 pm

    196thlightinfantry said: "Good deal that the tribe will get a say on this and an important one at that.

    Obama doesn't consider any tribal territory as sovereign land, nor does the US Government.

    The dirty little secret is that Obama must keep the Unions happy to win re-election, so the pipeline IS going to happen because they want the jobs.

    Considering the billions of dollars that Obama gave American-Indians at the beginning of his term, he feels they owe it to him to have the pipeline built.

  2. 196thlightinfantry
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    196thlightinfantry - October 24, 2011 11:38 am
    Good deal that the tribe will get a say on this and an important one at that. You see, we are all, each and everyone of us, on Indian Land at one time in our not so distant history. I liked the part about being a generation x feller too (hint, that is a hippie) Wow, you would think that we are back in the 60's according to the do right by billionaires club. Make war and lots of it and destroy the planet as soon as possible. Stick with the ending of this monster.
  3. Common Sense
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    Common Sense - October 24, 2011 9:30 am
    It's a good thing all those other pipelines (literally hundreds of them) were constructed prior to the 24 hour news cycle. They operate just fine now that they are built, but then we didn't get a chance to wring our hands and work up all the "Chicken Littles" of the world first.

    For all you Gen X'ers that grew up on video games - you can google Chicken Little or Henny Penny.
  4. Sasha
    Report Abuse
    Sasha - October 24, 2011 8:26 am

    Retired, as anyone in construction will tell you, all construction jobs are temporary. It's the nature of the business.

    In addition to millions of dollars in new tax-revenue from the pipeline to pay for teachers, schools, cops and fire-fighters, OF COURSE there will also be hundreds of fulltime pipeline jobs in South Dakota to:

    - monitor and maintain the operation of the pumping stations
    - regularly inspect the safety of the pipeline
    - clear and inspect the route right-of-way
    - and of course, deal with malcontents (and refer them for prosecution) who have false claims of environmental damage and fake health issues in order to cash-in on the pipeline for their own monetary gain.

    Seeing how liberals like the warm, fuzzy blanket of Obama-care, feel free to send any fake health claims their way. They'll take good care of ya ;)

    As for any cooked-up drama about environmental damage, kindly send your complaints to Obama and his EPA after he approves the Keystone project.

    Oh, and be sure to add fake complaints about the 20-inch-diameter Ethanol pipeline from Davison County, SD to Linden, New Jersey that's being built ... that Obama personally endorses along with loan guarantees from his US Department of Energy.

  5. retired
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    retired - October 24, 2011 6:54 am
    Will the pipline company pleae answer a simple question: How many fulltime jobs will be in the state of South Dakota after the pipeline is built. I know you and others keep saying it will bring jobs, but as in northern Minnesota 2 years ago tey built a pipeline and after hiring a lot of local to build when done in that are they are no longer working. so how may will be employed year round for the lifetime of the line.
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