Bakken Pipeline Stop-Work Order Lifted, But Project Foes Press On

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Energy Transfer Partners

A stop-work order issued to Dakota Access LLC late last month by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources over the potential disturbance of Native American burial grounds has been lifted, the Des Moines Register reported Monday.

The DNR’s order, first reported by the Informer, was issued after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revoked its approval of a sovereign lands construction permit for Dakota Access in Lyon County’s Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area in northwest Iowa near the South Dakota border. State archaeologist John Doershuk subsequently conducted a review of the site in question, which is coded 13LO335.

According to the Register, DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins confirmed that his department had amended Dakota Access’ sovereign lands construction permit to allow the company to avoid the sensitive site by burying its crude oil pipeline 85 feet below ground there using boring equipment. Last week, the paper reported, Doershuk contacted DNR Director Chuck Gipp to tell him that he believed the company’s plan was an archaeologically sound method to avoid disturbing the site.

Earlier this month, Dakota Access spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger reached out to the Informer with a document (embedded below) showing the results of a previous archaeological review of the site in 2004, for which Doershuk was a co-principal investigator. Dillinger said that the same location that’s been under review for the company’s crude oil pipeline was surveyed during the earlier review and only a separate site, coded 13LO317, was found to have “extant architectural and potential buried archaeological remains of a farmstead.”

“Our pipeline/work area is locked in the portion of the property where nothing was found as confirmed by this study,” Dillinger wrote, adding: “If something is confirmed in the area, we will make any necessary adjustments and continue on. Energy Transfer respects and honors all areas of cultural significance and takes great care is these types of situations to mitigate any impact.” The Informer was unable to get in touch with Doershuk for more information about the 2004 review.

Opponents of the pipeline project have echoed the concerns of Iowa Utilities Board member Geri Huser, who was the only of the board’s three members to vote earlier this month against allowing Dakota Access to begin construction in other parts of the state because of pre-construction terms calling for the company to have received all of its federal construction permits first.

The pipeline foes are still hopeful that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might trip up the project. Dakota Access needs a separate permit from the federal agency before constructing a total of about 2.5 percent of the pipeline’s 346-mile stretch across the state underneath waterways. The Register reported that Corps spokesman Allen Marshall “said negotiations are ongoing with tribal representatives, state historical preservation officials, and Dakota Access.”

On Saturday, the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition has planned a flotilla protest east of Pilot Mound along the part of the Des Moines River where the pipeline would cross if Dakota Access receives the Corps permit.

Meanwhile, the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a coalition of ag, business, and labor groups supportive of the project, is applauding the decision to lift the stop-work order. “The discovery of the archaeological site and subsequent review that has occurred over the past few weeks illustrates that the Unanticipated Discoveries Plan prepared by Dakota Access is an effective framework both in theory and application,” MAIN said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.