ODNR hopes to protect farms from natural gas pipeline

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COLUMBUS — David Hanselmann, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Conservation, signed an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement Jan. 28 with the Rockies Express Pipeline for Ohio lands.

This agreement creates a minimum set of standard guidelines that Rockies Express Pipeline will follow while crossing 14 Ohio counties or 220 miles for the purposes of installing a 42-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline.

Intent

Although the intent of the agreement is to protect agricultural and forestland from any negative long-term impacts caused by the construction of this pipeline, landowners should also consult with their local soil and water conservation district or other local experts to identify any additional resource needs that should be negotiated individually with Rockies Express Pipeline.

In the agreement, Ohio Department of Natural Resources was careful to stipulate that landowners are free to negotiate with Rockies Express Pipeline representatives about how any such additional resource issues are handled.

As proposed, Rockies Express Pipeline is a 1,663-mile-long pipeline system that will transport natural gas from areas in Colorado and Wyoming to the eastern United States.

When complete, the pipeline will carry between 1.5 billion cubic feet and 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Affected counties

The pipeline will cross portions of: Butler, Warren, Clinton, Greene, Fayette, Pickaway, Fairfield, Perry, Morgan, Muskingum, Guernsey, Noble, Belmont and Monroe counties in Ohio.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the lead federal agency responsible for conducting the environmental review of the project. The Rockies Express Pipeline is being developed under three separate commission certificates.

Although construction has begun in the western United States, Rockies Express Pipeline is still seeking its certificate for the Rockies Express-East, which includes Ohio. Rockies Express Pipeline plans to start construction in Ohio, during the spring or summer of 2008.

First

The Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement is the first of its kind in Ohio and is intended to help preserve the integrity of any agricultural land that is impacted by pipeline construction.

The agreement was developed in cooperation with agricultural agencies, organizations, landowners, tenants, drainage contractors and pipeline companies.

Some of the topics covered in the agreement include: minimum pipeline depths, topsoil removal and replacement, repair of tile lines, compaction mitigation, erosion control and a three-year post-construction monitoring and remediation period.

Regarding pipeline depth, the agreement requires a minimum of 5 feet for all agricultural soils. This should be adequate depth to accommodate most subsurface drainage systems.

However, where 5 feet is deemed inadequate, landowners can negotiate greater depth.

Consultation

Landowners and tenants who will be impacted by the construction of the pipeline may wish to contact their local soil and water conservation district to schedule a site visit or further discuss ways to minimize any long-term impacts to property.

A copy of the Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement may also be obtained through the soil and water conservation district.

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