Pipeline Growth In PA
Thanks to the shale boom, the energy industry is growing in Pennsylvania and more pipelines are being built. Choosing where to put them isn’t always easy. As pipeline planners look for ways to balance impacts to people and the environment, areas most likely affected by new pipeline construction tend to be rural, which means crossing farmland.
AT WILLIAMS, WE’RE COMMITTED TO PROTECTING THE RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST AND RESPECT WE’VE WORKED HARD TO ESTABLISH WITH OUR FARMING NEIGHBORS.
That’s why we’re taking extra steps to ensure agricultural landowners who may be affected by one of our pipelines are part of the planning process. Our goal is to treat them fairly, both through financial compensation and by protecting and restoring their land.
Yes, you can farm over a pipeline. For the Atlantic Sunrise project, we are working with soil scientists, agronomists and local agricultural experts to ensure we have a comprehensive understanding of the agricultural lands in the area. These experts will work to ensure our construction techniques and restoration methods are appropriate for the area’s soils, crops and farming practices.
Here is an overview of some of the steps we are taking:
One of the first opportunities for collaboration with landowners occurs during the initial surveying and line staking activities. Landowners are invited to accompany the surveyor during the initial review of the land. As the people most familiar and knowledgeable with the property, farmland owners and tenants are in the best position to share useful information with the soil scientists, agronomists, construction engineers, surveyors and land representatives during project planning. Landowners and tenants input is very valuable and can help influence the final pipeline alignment.
Williams will establish an easement value based on a fair market appraisal of the land. Valuation of the crop loss is conducted separately from the easement appraisal. Normal crop valuations consists of 175% reimbursement for crop losses during the life of the project.
To minimize impacts associated with crop productivity, topsoil segregation is used in all agricultural lands including row crops (conventional and no-till), tame pastures, hayfields, and other areas at the landowner’s or land managing agency’s request. The subsoil, which receives the bulk of the construction traffic, is tested and decompacted, if required, using agricultural rippers. Topsoil segregation, and decompaction is done on both the right of way and the construction workspace. In our experience, soils within the right-of-way don’t typically exhibit water movement problems when proper topsoil segregation and decompaction techniques are used. Prior to topsoil segregation, the topsoil depth will be measured and recorded to minimize mixing topsoil with subsoil.
For projects like Atlantic Sunrise, which temporarily disturb agricultural land, the company will perform routine agricultural inspections. Agricultural inspection is completed by a combination of qualified Agricultural Inspectors or Soil Conservation Specialists. It’s the Agricultural Inspector’s job to understand site-specific landowner concerns and ensure that all pre-agreed conditions are being followed. An inspector will be used on each applicable pipeline spread and for each phase of the project, including pre-construction planning, construction, initial restoration, post-construction monitoring and follow-up restoration.
Within agricultural land, Williams will install the pipeline to a minimum depth of three feet below the ground surface to allow for continued agricultural practices after construction is complete. Additional depth of cover, up to four feet, may be negotiated with the landowner to accommodate crops that require deep soil tillage and movement of heavy machinery directly over the pipeline. Williams will also work with landowners to site pipeline markers in a manner that avoids impacts to farming operations while maintaining compliance with federal standards for pipeline marking.
Landowners/farmers are urged to call the 811 Utility Location service whenever any excavation or decrease of soil cover over the pipeline is anticipated at any location along the pipeline. This activity should be reviewed by a Williams representative to insure the safety of the pipeline.
Crossing farm field roads within agricultural land, the pipeline will generally be installed at a depth consistent with the adjacent agricultural land. Consideration will be given to current and future intended use of the road and the weight of machinery and vehicles using the road to determine if additional depth of cover will be needed to protect the pipeline. The farm road will be restored as near as possible to pre-construction condition. Post construction monitoring of the road restoration will be done in conjunction with other restoration monitoring to check for subsidence of the trench line. All subsidence will be corrected.
All drain tiles damaged by the pipeline during construction will be clearly marked. Those markings will be kept in place until all tiles have been permanently repaired by the tile repair crew and such repairs has been inspected and approved. Temporary repairs will be put in place during construction to allow proper drain tile function. All drain tiles will be permanently repaired before the pipeline trench is backfilled and within 14 days of construction completion, weather and soil conditions permitting. Specialists will be used, as necessary, to verify repairs and adequate testing of the drainage systems. The drain tile marker shall not be removed until the tile repairs have been inspected, approved, and accepted by Williams’ inspectors and/or the landowner/tenant. Records of drainage system repairs will be kept and given to the landowner.
Williams will work with the landowner to protect active pasture land and livestock during construction through the installation of temporary fencing, the use of alternative locations for livestock to cross the construction corridor, and/or developing Grazing Deferment Plans, as negotiated with the landowner. Williams land agents will coordinate with landowners to develop a plan to delay the pasturing of the right of way, following construction, until pasture areas are adequately revegetated. Williams will be responsible for maintaining the temporary fences on the right-of-way until the vegetation on the right-of-way is established and able to accommodate grazing. At such time, Williams will be responsible for the removal of the fences.
Existing fences across the construction corridor will be documented with photographs prior to construction. Fence gaps will be used to allow equipment access during construction. In areas where fence gaps are required, the fence on both sides of the gap will remain functional. Atlantic Sunrise will install H-braces or similar supports to maintain the fence integrity during construction. Fences that are removed for construction of the pipeline will be replaced in the original location with the same material as the original fence. Gates may be placed in fences across the right of way to allow for Williams operations personnel to pass along the right of way for routine safety inspections which occur periodically. Double locks will be placed on these gates to allow access only by Williams personnel and the landowner. In the case of specialty fences, Williams land agents will work with landowners to determine the best method for removing and replacing the fence in the original location.
Crews will remove excess rock from at least the top 12 inches of soil in all agricultural areas. Once construction is complete, the size, density and distribution of rock within the pipeline work area will be restored to the same consistency as areas not affected by construction. The right of way will be restored, including rock removal, in a manner so that it is as close to preconstruction conditions as practicable.
Through cultivation and pasturelands, no rock four inches or larger in diameter shall be placed in the backfill within 12 inches of the surface of the surrounding soil. All excess rock, stone and/or boulders must be removed from the work area. If the landowner does not want the rock it will be properly disposed of by Williams.
Williams will work to coordinate with appropriate local, state and federal agencies any construction and reclamation measures involving affected farmlands. This will include working with local soil conservation authorities or land management agencies to address erosion control and revegetation. The company will also work with appropriate agencies to create specific procedures to prevent the introduction or spread of noxious weeds and other pests resulting from pipeline construction.
Williams will develop a detailed Environmental Construction Plan for the Atlantic Sunrise project. This Environmental Construction Plan will include protective Best Management Practices identified by local, state and federal agencies.
A detailed list of soil types and their characteristics will be included in Resource Report 7 filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Land use, including specialty crop areas, will be identified in Resource Report 8. Agricultural soil protection and mitigation methods proposed will depend on soil characteristics. The prescribed Best Management Practices for each individual location crossed by the Project will be detailed in the Environmental Construction Plan.
The Atlantic Sunrise project may cross farms which use organic and/or no till farming methods. Maintaining the organic status of the Organic Farms is critically important and must be respect through the process. Similarly, reestablishing soil structure and crop nutrient dynamics in no-till systems is critical to decrease the time required to reach reclamation success and return the land to its previous state. Williams recognizes the unique attributes of these farming methods and works closely with the farmers, local and state agencies, and subject matter experts to formulate construction and restoration plans that respect the unique challenges associated with these and other specialized farming practices.
There are a number of soil reclamation methods available to pipeline companies. This includes topsoil preservation, topsoil protection, subsoil compaction relief, and application of approved fertilizers, manure or other soil amendments, if necessary, to maintain overall soil tilth. In addition, seeding a cover crop and constructing drainage control devices, such as diversion berms, helps control surface erosion, and maintain soil quality while promoting rapid recovery of the affected portions of right of way.