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Landowner fumes over pipeline work in soggy field conditions

By Staff | Oct 14, 2016

It was wet in Nancy Phillips’ 80-acre field in Calhoun County on Oct. 7 where the Dakota Access pipeline will be dug. Phillips said she and other landowners are concerned about the impact of construction equipment moving over and through the saturated fields.

FORT DODGE – Nancy Phillips visited her 80-acre row crop field she rents in Calhoun County and was angry over what she saw.

With field conditions best described as soggy, if not saturated, heavy equipment working on the Dakota Access pipeline rolled over the right-of-way corridor causing ruts and depressions she said were 18 inches or deeper.

She took out her iPhone and started snapping photos. Someone was going to know what happened to her land.

According to her contract, crews were not to be working in muddy conditions.

Phillips lives in rural Fort Dodge and is landlord of the 80 acres that was cleaved to make way for the pipeline.

THIS PHOTO, taken Monday morning, shows the deep rutting created by earth-moving machines as they rolled over the field. Phillips said the depressions were 18 to 24 inches deep. “I call it raping the land,” Phillips said.

On Friday, Phillips said she and other landowners were meeting with project officials because they were concerned about the continuing work after Calhoun County received heavy rainfall.

From Aug. 1 to Oct. 7, the county received 10.64 inches of rain. In addition, it received 1.83 inches of rain the previous two days, including a half-inch over the previous evening.

She said she was told by project manager Evan Del Van, with ISG Field Services of Des Moines, that someone would be out to look at the situation.

After a two-hour wait, Phillips said she doesn’t think anyone showed up. That’s how things were left late Friday afternoon.

But by Monday morning, the earth movers rolled through the field creating huge depressions and rutting which she is certain will create deep compaction for years to come.

Phillips, who was already angry that the Iowa Utility Board greenlighted the pipeline project across Iowa, said her first thought was, “I wish this never happened.”

Her second thought?

“I don’t think Gov. (Terry) Branstad and his brother would want this to happen on their farm.”

Phillips provided Farm News with photos she took Monday.

“I call it raping the land,” Phillips said. “Farmers never wanted this and I think they are rushing this to keep it from being stopped.”

When contacted Monday afternoon by Farm News, Del Van declined to comment specifically about Phillips’ land.

Since his company is riding watchdog over 260 miles of the pipeline, crossing 13 Iowa counties, he said without being at the site and seeing her photos, he could not make comment.

However, he did say that inspections were made and those reports were on file before work commenced across the soggy fields.

Del Van said he understood Phillips’ concerns about compaction.

He said before the topsoil is returned to the fields, crews will be required to do deep-rip tillage on the right-of-way upward to 18 inches a minimum of three times.

If the section is not considered to be decompacted, Del Van said, the crew will be required to continue deep-ripping until decompaction occurs.

When asked about section 6.14 of Phillips’ contract saying construction will not commence in wet soil conditions, Del Van again declined to comment on specifics without seeing the official report on that parcel.

Phillips acknowledged there is little chance of legal action at this point, but said “I don’t think they (state officials and IUB) thought it would be this bad.”

“It’s something to learn from.”

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