|By NANCY VORIS
FRANKLIN, Ind. — If completed, a 1,663-mile natural gas pipeline system from Colorado to Ohio will allow Midwest states access to reliable, clean-burning natural gas supplies from the Rocky Mountain supply basins.
It will help meet the nation’s growing need for energy, said Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., developers of the project called Rockies Express Pipeline (REX).
The eastern portion of the pipeline known as REX–East will travel approximately 622 miles from Audrain County, Mo., to Monroe County, Ohio. The proposed route slices through nine counties in Central Indiana.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began the review process in June, and REX agents started contacting landowners along the route for permission to conduct civil, environmental and cultural resource surveys. Public meetings are being held to allow landowners to voice their concerns to company officials and FERC agents.
In Johnson County, 250 people attended a meeting last week, concerned about land values, wildlife, trees, wetlands and safety. But local farmer John Garrett went to the meeting with much more on his mind – his grain yield and field drainage.
When it comes to pipelines, he has been there and done that.
Gas pipelines were buried on two of his farms 20 years ago, he said, and the compaction and drainage problems do not go away.
“The soil is a different color, the corn is not as tall,” Garrett said.
Even now, yield monitors around the pipeline show a drop in yield as much as 40 bushels for corn and 10-12 bushels for soybeans.
Depressions in the field indicate areas where field tile were damaged. Compaction was caused by heavy equipment working on the pipeline, sometimes when the ground was too wet, Garrett said.
“When I’m plowing and I hit a hard spot (near the pipeline), that tractor will actually shudder,” he said.
“Farmers work on their ground when it’s right, when it’s dry. They’re going to work on it no matter what.”
REX–East will conduct environmental and engineering field surveys through 2006 and 2007, studying the proposed route for environmental impact. The proposed route in Johnson County was changed once to divert it from a large proposed housing development.
The final route will be proposed to FERC early in 2008 with construction to begin shortly thereafter.
The targeted in-service date for the pipeline is December 2008.
Landowners close to the proposed route received letters from the company informing them of the public meeting, but a map showing the exact route and parcels of land affected has not been published. Officials say they need permission to access the land and complete surveys before the route can be determined.
Those attending the public meeting heard some of the restrictions involved if a pipeline is buried on their property.
Trees would be cleared and are not allowed within a 50-foot right-of-way around the pipeline, but smaller shrubs, landscaping and farming are allowed. Structures are prohibited in the 50-foot buffer.
The route will bypass existing homes and structures, a spokesman said.
To construct the pipeline, REX must negotiate a right-of-way easement with landowners. Once FERC approves the pipeline, REX is granted the authority to use eminent domain if necessary.
Indiana Farm Bureau is monitoring the project. “Indiana Farm Bureau recognizes the important role this pipeline can play to help secure the natural gas needs of many Americans, including Hoosiers,” said Don Villwock, IFB president. “At the same time, we’re interested in helping protect the private property rights of our members.”
IFB Director of Legal Affairs Mark Thornburg encourages members to attend all public meetings for the pipeline and to retain legal counsel if they have been contacted by REX agents.
“Negotiating utility easements is a complex business,” he said.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture has created a 16-page document outlining the agricultural and property rights issues that landowners should be aware of in the negotiation process, Thornburg said. The document is at www.agr.state.il.us/Environment/LandWater/pipelinestandards&policies.pdf
For information on the pipeline, visit www.rexpipeline.com and www.ferc.gov
This farm news was published in the Sept. 20, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.