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Crews at work . . . One of Alliance Pipeline's construction crews
cleared right-of-way for the new Tioga Lateral pipeline at a site
10 miles north of Kenmare, immediately north of U.S. Highway 52.
The crew operated four excavators and four bulldozers
to move topsoil and grade the surface in preparation
to lay the 8,000 joints of pipe planned for the project.
By Caroline Downs
Crews started clearing the right-of-way for Alliance Pipeline’s Tioga Lateral project in late November. Excavators and bulldozers moved topsoil and graded the surface along a route that crossed property owned by the Floyd and Delores Bryan family 10 miles north of Kenmare.
The new path can be seen immediately north of U.S. Highway 52 where the roadway makes a sharp west curve. The right-of-way spans 75 feet for construction purposes, with a permanent easement of 50 feet for pipeline operations and maintenance.
According to Alliance Pipeline, the new 79.3 mile pipeline will connect natural gas produced in the Tioga area to be transported to the mainline near Sherwood, with the gas destined for the Chicago market hub.
Crews at work in the immediate area concentrated on segments of the route in Burke and Renville counties. “Most of the right-of-way has been secured, but we are still finalizing things with regard to a few tracts of land,” said Rob Gray, Senior Communications Advisor for Alliance Pipeline.
The crew moving dirt north of Kenmare was part of a larger work force numbering between 200 and 300 individuals scattered along the entire route, according to Gray.
He compared the pipeline construction process to a moving assembly line. “In general, crews start their work at the Tioga end of the route and work their way toward Sherwood,” he said. “However, there will be multiple groups of the same crew spread over the route.”
Those crews will work on the same tasks at multiple locations, moving forward on the route. “The next crew follows behind, so there will be activity happening at many different locations along the route at any given time,” Gray explained.
With the right-of-way cleared, construction and installation of the actual pipeline can begin. Gray said a series of specialized crews will begin their assignments. “For example, you will typically see grade, stringing, bending, welding, coating, ditch, lower-in, backfill, clean-up, hydrotest and assembly installation crews,” he said. “Some activities are days apart. Others could be weeks, dependent upon weather, terrain and other productivity impacts.”
Gray noted that inspection personnel, surveyors and smaller specialized crews for specific tasks, such as horizontal direction drills, will also be working along the route.
Stringing the pipe itself will begin near Tioga. Gray said semi-trailers, hauling up to 16 joints of pipe apiece from the storage yard in Kenmare, will transport the pipe to the right-of-way, where pipe-handling equipment lays the pipe. Next, the pipe is bent and shaped with mechanized equipment to match the contours of the land.
“The pipe joints will then be welded together and placed on raised wooden pipe skids to prevent rolling,” Gray said. “All welds will be externally coated and the entire pipe will be inspected for any coating blemishes that need to be repaired.”
The trench for the pipe is dug after the welding is completed. “Specialized pipeline machines known as ‘side booms’ will lower the pipe into the trench,” Gray continued.
He noted Alliance’s standard practice is to backfill the trench as soon as possible after the pipe is laid, sometimes even the same day, to minimize freezing of the soil and to reduce the possibility of snow or ice gathering in the trench.
A crown or mound of topsoil will cover the trench to account for soil settling over the winter.
“The right-of-way will then be cleared and readied for restoration efforts which will continue in the spring and summer of 2013 when the weather improves,” said Gray.
The process continues by filling the pipeline with water and pressurizing it, known as hydrostatic testing, to check for leaks in the line and ensure the pipeline can operate at the designed pressure. “This work will be ongoing throughout the winter and is expected to be complete by spring 2013,” Gray said.
He noted that crews are being housed at a construction camp in Tioga at this time, with buses transporting workers to various sites along the pipeline route.
Alliance also cautions area residents about heavy equipment that will be operating along the route, including semi-trailers, backhoes, side booms, ditchers and welders.
Eminent domain invoked
to obtain some easements
With the construction schedule underway, Alliance Pipeline is still working toward easement agreements with some of the landowners along the approved route. While the majority have accepted compensation offered by Alliance, some have not.
In October, the company filed suit in the Northwest District Court against a group of landowners from Burke and Renville counties, seeking to condemn the easements required to construct and operate the pipeline on 15 identified tracts of land.
“We attempted for many months to meet with all landowners to discuss the project and to offer compensation,” Gray said. “There are a few landowners we have not been able to come to terms with. In such instances, when a project has been certificated by [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission], and, as such, is determined to be in the public’s interest, the use of eminent domain may be used.”
Gray explained that eminent domain has been invoked in order to allow the project to proceed. “Due to the construction timeline and planned June 2013 in-service date, working through the courts became necessary on this project,” he said.
He emphasized that Alliance continues to reach out to and negotiate with the landowners involved in the eminent domain cases. “Alliance remains hopeful that voluntary agreements will be reached,” he said.
The company also realizes that voluntary agreements may not be achieved with all the landowners, according to Gray. “In those instances, the court will assess the parties’ positions and make determinations that will be binding on both sides,” he said.
Further information about construction and progress on the Tioga Lateral Pipeline Project can be found online at www.alliancepipeline.com.
A path across the prairie . . . This stretch of Tioga Lateral Project right-of-way
crosses property owned by the Floyd and Delores Bryan family trust, north of
Kenmare along U.S. 52. The pipe segments seen at right will be shaped
to match the land contours, welded and coated before being placed in a trench
along this route. Construction on the project will continue through the winter
months, with completion expected in spring 2013.