About the pipeline and flooding
STANTON — In November 2009, the Keystone pipeline was completed on our property in Stanton County 2#-I miles west of here. We had almost one mile of pipeline, some through farm land and some through pasture land. The pasture land is a series of old river beds. The soils here are almost 100 percent sand and are especially flood prone. The pipes are buried in this area at a depth of 4 to 5 feet.
We now have a very serious potential problem which I will describe.
In the middle of June 2010, we had a record-breaking flood on the Elkhorn River that did extensive damage. Our entire farm was under water for five days with the landscape changed forever in some areas. There was a vast amount of severe erosion on the river banks and also in fields where there were heavy currents over a long period of time. The CRP land that I own was hit the worst as the river bank that once protected it was already very low. As a result, a channel was cut right through the middle of this field. This awesome force of water also blew out the county road in three places and ran with full force over the pipeline in my pasture for five days, thereby causing severe erosion and massive tree damage on the east side of the pipeline.
As a firsthand witness to the totality of the tragedy, I truly believe that if the water would have stayed at this level 24 to 48 hours longer, a whole new river channel would have been carved right through the Keystone pipeline. Keystone has dodged a huge bullet this time.
What can be done to alter this natural process that continues to unfold on the river? My neighbor to the south and I have constructed several large earthen dikes in areas that were low and easily breached during times of high water. We also applied for permits from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to build concrete jetties so that the river does not destroy the dikes we spent a month building. We also asked Keystone many times for help in this matter, believing that they have a lot at stake in preventing a possible disaster. They sent personnel to look at the situation, such as surveyors who spent four days taking elevation readings. But all they could do is report on their findings.
We strongly believe that if only Keystone had at least shown some interest in this matter, maybe our permits would not have been denied.
Why would a large company such as Keystone want to risk a potential disaster like this when they are already facing so much public scrutiny in the Nebraska Sandhills? They can’t even step up to the plate here and admit that there are some issues that need to be taken care of. Why, then, would anyone be inclined to trust these people to go through a fragile area like the Nebraska Sandhills?
We also own land in Holt County that will be affected by Keystone XL. I can say from experience that if you ask for help you are not going to get any from Keystone because they do not want anyone to think there might be a problem on the first pipeline.
That is why a letter such as this needed to be written.
Early in September we met with people from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, DEQ, State of Nebraska Fish and Wildlife, Army Corps of Engineers and Nebraska Game & Parks. No one from Keystone showed up although they said someone would be out later in the week to take soil samples. We explained what our intentions were on stabilizing the river banks. Apparently no one caught on to the fact that the pipeline was in danger, is in danger and will remain in danger until current problems are resolved.
The Army Corps of Engineers issues permits based on input from other government agencies. Three weeks after the September meeting we received notice that permission to build jetties was denied. Every agency gave a negative recommendation.
We are planning to apply again very shortly, hoping to get something done before the high water of spring arrives. We have already done a considerable amount of work and funded temporary safeguards. But the total repair costs are just too much for any one party to bear. Thus, we seek help from Keystone and Stanton County.
I certainly hope that responsible people can be alerted to do what is right and what is necessary before it is too late.
Also see legal challenge to eminent domain