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Saving roads is priority for county commission

Managing editor

It’s a case of Marion County officials wanting to preserve county roads and Keystone Pipeline Company wanting to use county roads to bury a 35-mile pipeline to link with a 1,690-mile project from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

After a lengthy meeting Monday, neither party seemed satisfied.

Numerous large trucks carrying tons of pipe and heavy trenching equipment traveling on and working from county roads are the primary concerns of Marion County Commission. Before any digging begins, the county wanted assurance from Keystone Pipeline officials that county roads would be repaired or replaced when the project was completed.

“We had the same concerns in northwest Kansas,” Keystone Pipeline representative Tommy Darnell said. “I encourage you to contact Marshall, Nemaha, Brown, and Donovan counties.”

Darnell continued that the contractor for that leg of the pipeline videotaped county roads prior to the pipeline construction so they could be returned to their original condition.

“It may not be as bad as you think,” he said. “Keystone wants to be a good neighbor.”

Commissioners expressed their concerns and want an agreement with the pipeline company that the roads will be repaired and possibly replaced.

“The real issue is the base (of the roads),” Commission Chairman Dan Holub said. “Fixing potholes is one thing but this will be different.

“We know about damages caused by grain and cattle trucks,” he said. “This is a different critter.”

The pipeline company is set to begin construction in May in Marion County, from Remington Road to Marion Reservoir, with 85 percent of the easement contracts already signed.

Marion County Appraiser Cindy Magill asked if property owners who are signing these agreements to have the pipe buried on their property might see an increase in property taxes. Currently, that property is being taxed as agriculture but would change to commercial because of the pipeline.

“We’re just leasing the property for 12 months,” Darnell said, “and then it will revert back to ag land.”

Harry Bennett, who lives downstream from the project, asked if the pipeline company would bore under rivers and streams.

“It depends on the size,” Darnell said. “We may construct a temporary dam if we don’t bore under it.”

“Am I going to have problems with flooding on my property?” Bennett asked.

Darnell said he couldn’t answer that question but would have a pipeline company representative contact him.

The pipeline company has applied for a conditional use permit from the county for a pipe yard at 290th and Quail Creek roads. The permit will be reviewed Dec. 3 by Marion County Planning Commission. The application requests permission to set up a temporary operation on the 40-acre site for storing pipe for the pipeline project and two pieces of equipment, Darnell said.

The pipe will arrive by rail in Florence. About six, 100-foot long trailers will carry the pipe from Florence to the pipe yard. A likely route will be U.S. 77 but it was unclear which roads the trucks will take to reach the site.

When the materials and equipment arrive, all access will be off 290th, Darnell said.

“I don’t know the location of (or the route to) the pipe yards,” Keystone spokesman Jim Prescott said, via telephone conference call. “I know the route of the pipeline.”

A map will be provided to the county this week so county roads and bridges can be identified as either adequate or inadequate for the large trucks and their loads.

Mike Olson of Kirkham Michael Engineering also attended the meeting to advise county officials. He also will be consulted when the county reviews maps.

Holub said county roads were one-half to two inches thick.

“If 1,200 to 1,400 trucks go over these roads, they will be worked to death,” he said.

The county had a bond issue to resurface 290th Road. Chip and sealing costs $42,000 per mile and the county only has a $6 million budget from ad valorem taxes, Holub said. Trucks used Yarrow Road when U.S. 77 was reconstructed, causing much damage that wasn’t detected until after the project.

The county has a 65,000-pound weight limit on roads, prohibiting large trucks from using the road other than for local deliveries.

An agreement similar to those used in other counties will be drawn between the pipeline company and the county regarding the restoration of roads following completion of the project, Prescott said.

When the project is finished, Prescott said he will have worked with 110 counties.

“I want to know your track record in other Kansas counties,” Commissioner Randy Dallke said.

“We have a good track record,” Prescott said. “I have not had one, not a single one county official call me to complain about the condition of roads after we left.”

Last modified Oct. 29, 2009

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