Pipelines and soil destruction

Fossil fuel pipelines have been a target of water protectors for many years.

Presidential approval for the Keystone XL pipeline gave rise to the Keystone Pledge of Resistance which was probably the reason the Obama administration eventually denied the permit. (See: https://landbackfriends.com/?s=keystone)

In a textbook example of racial injustice, the route of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) was changed from crossing the Missouri River upstream of Bismarck, North Dakota, to instead cross the water at Standing Rock.

Now the fossil fuel industry is applying significant pressure for the approval of pipelines to move liquified carbon emissions from sites of high CO2 production to underground storage in rock formations.

These carbon capture pipelines have the same problems as the Keystone XL, DAPL and other pipelines, including disrupting Indigenous sacred sites and lands, abuse of eminent domain, missing and murdered Indigenous relatives because of the “man camps” at the construction sites.

Another problem that needs attention is the damage to the soil by the pipeline construction. Pipeline companies say they will protect the rich, fertile topsoil by setting it aside, to be replaced on top of the covered pipeline.

That is not done. Instead, the fertile topsoil is mixed with the subsoil, causing problems that include poor water drainage and lower crop yields.

AMES, Iowa — An Iowa State University study looking at the impacts of soil disturbance and early remediation practices from construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline finds significant soil compaction and gradual recovery of crop yield in the right-of-way over five years.

The research, funded by Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), aimed to investigate construction influences of the underground pipeline on farmland. The pipeline transports crude oil over 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, passing through South Dakota and about 347 miles in Iowa.

According to a university news release, the study’s primary goal was to assess the extent of soil and cropping disturbances in the approximately 150-foot right-of-way caused by land clearing, topsoil removal and soil mixing, pipeline trenching and backfilling during the construction process.

Researchers also wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of state-mandated remediation requirements and a DAPL agricultural mitigation plan designed to minimize impacts to cropland. The Iowa Utility Code requires pipeline projects to remove topsoil and apply deep tillage to exposed subsoil before replacing the topsoil. The researchers are continuing to study the benefits of these practices, which can be costly.

Such field-based research quantifying soil properties and recovery in the years after a pipeline installation on farmlands is limited.

“Our findings show extensive soil disturbance from construction activities had adverse effects on soil physical properties, which come from mixing of topsoil and subsoil, as well as soil compaction from heavy machinery,” said Mehari Tekeste, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, director of the Soil Machine Dynamics Laboratory at Iowa State and leader of the project.

“Overall, in the first two years, we found the construction caused severe subsoil compaction, impaired soil physical structure that can discourage root growth and reduce water infiltration in the right-of-way,” said Horton, the lead soil physicist on the project. They also found changes in available soil water and nutrients.

The team found crop yields in the right-of-way were reduced by an average of 25% for soybeans and 15% for corn during the first and second crop seasons, compared to undisturbed fields.

Study: Pipeline construction affects crop yield, Iowa Farmer Today, Nov 29, 2021

Following are some photos related to the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline that we observed during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.

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