Meade County Commission

Meade County highway superintendent Lincoln Shuck, left, talks with Glenn Taylor, a permit specialist for South Dakota employed by a company under contract to KXL pipeline owner TransCanada, during a break at Wednesday's Meade County Commission meeting in Sturgis.

STURGIS | Meade County commissioners want to make sure rural roads will be promptly repaired from damage from heavy truck traffic expected during the upcoming construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline as it bisects the northeast corner of the county on a route through South Dakota.

Although major construction of the controversial fourth phase of the oil pipeline isn’t expected to begin until next year, pipeline owner TransCanada notified counties along the way that pre-construction road assessments will begin early next month.

Those assessments are included in pacts, called road haul agreements, between counties and TransCanada to provide a benchmark of road conditions to be maintained during and after construction.

Meade County highway superintendent Lincoln Shuck said the six-year-old road haul agreement, signed by another county road superintendent and a largely different county commission, needs to be re-examined before any use of roads by TransCanada vehicles begins.

“It should be revisited whenever there is a new commission so everyone’s on board,” Shuck said.

Shuck’s concerns with the current agreement ranged from minor details of language — one incorrectly referring to the county highway superintendent as a public works director — to how the county will be reimbursed for repairs to damaged roads.

“I don’t see any mechanics for that kind of a situation at all, and I believe that should be put in there,” he said.

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The TransCanada KXL pipeline will bring oil extracted from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Canada through Montana, South Dakota, to an existing pipeline junction in Steele City, Neb., continuing through Kansas and Oklahoma to gulf terminals in Texas.

Construction of the KXL pipeline was delayed by President Obama in 2015. Newly inaugurated President Donald Trump revived both the KXL and Dakota Access pipelines in 2017.

Commissioner Linda Rausch was one of three current commission members, along with Robert Heidgerken  and Doreen Creed, who helped forge the original road haul agreement with TransCanada in 2012.

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Rausch said the county has been supportive of the pipeline project, but needed to be wary of traffic tearing up roads rural county residents depend upon daily.

“We don’t want to be taken advantage of here. We expect Keystone to come and fix our roads if you destroy them while you’re using them,” she told Glenn Taylor, a permit specialist for a company contracted to TransCanada.

Commissioners took no action Wednesday but commission chairman Galen Niederwerder said the road haul agreement would be discussed at an upcoming commission meeting on May 9.

“I just want to make sure that we have the ability to make sure those roads are in as good of condition as they can be, while that construction is going on," he said.

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