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KEYSTONE PIPELINE: Mitigation project grows trees

Nearly 85,000 trees and shrubs will be planted in North Dakota over the next three years, as part of the mitigation phase of the eastern North Dakota portion of the $12 billion Keystone Pipeline project.

Nearly 85,000 trees and shrubs will be planted in North Dakota over the next three years, as part of the mitigation phase of the eastern North Dakota portion of the $12 billion Keystone Pipeline project.

That's a tiny shelterbelt compared with the 74 million trees planted during the state's Centennial Trees Program in the 1990s. But it's a major green investment in North Dakota, according to State Forester Larry Kotchman.

The company recently deposited $608,512 in the North Dakota Trust Fund to pay for purchasing and planting the trees and shrubs.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission last month approved Keystone's pipeline reclamation plan, which calls for replacing two trees for every one uprooted during the project. The plan was developed with the assistance of the State Forest Service.

"We have had experience with this before with utility companies," Kotchman said.


The Forest Service previously negotiated a program on a similar-size CO2 pipeline reclamation project with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, based in Bismarck.

Keystone officials also reported to the PSC that the company will pay an estimated $6.1 million in taxes to local governments in North Dakota this year. That amount will grow to an estimated $11.4 million in 2011, when the pipeline is expected to reach capacity of 591,000 barrels of oil per day. The pipeline is running at somewhat less than its present-435,000-barrel capacity, according to Jeff Rauh, Keystone project spokesman.

The Keystone Pipeline was built through 218 miles of North Dakota soil, along a 2,148-mile route from Hardisty, Alta., to U.S. markets at Wood River and Patoka, Ill. The final phase is being built to Cushing, Okla.

The pipeline enters the state in Cavalier County and exits in Sargent County. The North Dakota construction phase ended late last year.

Keystone is working with the Forest Service and the state's soil conservation districts to plant the trees and shrubs over the next three years.

"Keystone has been very environmentally oriented toward this," Kotchman said.

"That multi-jurisdictional effect is important for mitigation," said PSC Chairman Kevin Cramer said.

Tree-planting plan


The pipeline and Forest Service agreed on planting 69,102 trees and shrubs, plus another 15,709 to allow for mortality and other issues, according to Kotchman. At least 75 percent of the plantings must be surviving at the end of 2013.

The pipeline project took 34,551 trees and shrubs along its 8-county route through the state.

District soil conservation districts will play a major role in the planting program, according to Kotchman. The first priority is to plant trees in shrubs in the eight counties in which the pipeline travels.

"All plantings will be done with willing landowners," he said.

If they all cannot be planted in the eight-county region, they will be planted throughout the state.

They could be:

- Living snow fences.

- Riparian forest plantings along rivers and streams.


- Field and farmstead windbreaks.

- Wildlife plantings, which are multi-row plantings of trees that are beneficial for wildlife.

The trees also will be available for community forestry projects, including memorials, parks or arboretums.

The largest species of trees removed were green ash, burr oak and Siberian elm, while the shrubs were snowberry, chokecherry and June berry.

"We'll be looking to plant similar species back again, depending somewhat on what's available," Kotchman said.

Pembina Gorge restoration

This fall, Keystone reclamation crews are finishing a targeted reclamation project in the Tetrault Woods State Forest-Pembina Gorge, where large sinkholes developed in the summer of 2009 along the pipeline.

Seven sinkholes -- some 30 to 40 feet deep that swallowed some 20- to 30-foot pine trees -- developed in the spring of 2009 in the sandy soil along the steep north slope of the Pembina Escarpment, limiting access to a spectacular panoramic view of the Pembina Gorge from a Forest Service lookout.


Keystone used a horizontal drilling method to cross the Pembina and Sheyenne rivers in North Dakota, to install the 30-inch pipeline below the riverbed.

Kotchman said the sinkhole problems were one of the risks of the project, and that strict environmental standards have been used to mitigate them.

"The environmental folks say all monitoring equipment shows its' been successful," he said.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com .

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