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Berthold citizens and Enbridge differ on expansion

The message came across clearly from the public during the Berthold Planning/Zoning Committee’s meeting Monday night: We want Enbridge to collect and transport oil here, but we want them west of the railroad tracks.

8/04/10 (Wed)

 

The message came across clearly from the public during the Berthold Planning/Zoning Committee’s meeting Monday night:

 

We want Enbridge to collect and transport oil here, but we want them west of the railroad tracks.

 

The session was called in response to a request from Enbridge Pipelines (North Dakota) LLC to change the zoning for the 80 acres directly east of their current facility from agricultural to industrial. More than two dozen local citizens attended the meeting, along with members of the Planning/Zoning Committee Bob Jensen, Nettie DeBilt, Terry Burke, Mark Birdsall, Jim Peterson and chair Bob Inman, Berthold city auditor Penni Miller, Berthold city attorney Bryan VanGrinsven, and Enbridge representatives.

 

Kesley Myhre, community relations advisor for Enbridge, opened with a description of Enbridge’s presence in the state and community. “Our business is energy transportation,” she said. Enbridge operates a 240-mile crude oil gathering pipeline and a 730-mile interstate pipeline transportation system, and has been present in North Dakota since 1996.

 

Engineering supervisor Bruce Homeniuk described the proposed expansion, which includes reactivation of the current 80,000-barrel tank on the Berthold site and the future construction of two identical tanks. “Those tanks would accommodate pipeline production from Tioga and Stanley,” he said.

 

Enbridge also has plans to purchase the 80 acres east of their current location in order to construct a 22-acre site for eight new truck unloading stations, which will be owned and operated by companies who lease the lots from Enbridge.

 

As many as 32 400-barrel tanks would be installed for the unloading stations, with each tank holding two semi-loads of crude oil, for a total capacity of 16,000 barrels.

 

Approximately a quarter mile of new pipeline would be built to connect the existing station to the new truck lot.

 

Homeniuk noted that trucks would enter the facility from the east- and westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 2 and drive on 296th Street SW to unload at their specific facilities. The project would increase the capacity at the Berthold site by 25,000 barrels per day through 2012 and could be operated by one individual. Enbridge wants construction to begin later this month.

 

According to Homeniuk, the 80-acre parcel chosen and requested for re-zoning satisfied several site selection criteria, including an unobstructed proximity to the existing facility site lines, unobstructed access from all directions, access to the pipeline already in place on the east side, minimal environment impact, and a configuration that allows for future expansion. The site also meets the Berthold criteria for industrial zoning.

 

“Surrounding properties include Enbridge, the cemetery, brush disposal sites and the site of a future wind farm,” he added.

 

The proposed Berthold Station upgrade would cost an estimated $9 million, with an estimated $30 million generated in regional economic activity.

 

Myhre noted the number of temporary jobs and amount of local retail business should increase during the construction period. “And the revenue generated from the increase injection capacity here will generate 179 North Dakota jobs and $36 million in state economic activity by 2013,” she said.

 

Safety concerns on U.S. 2

Homeniuk then addressed traffic safety at the site, saying Enbridge had met with the Berthold City Council, District 6 Senator David O’Connell as Transportation Committee Chair, and representatives of the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

 

He displayed a graphic featuring the NDDOT’s recommendation for the location, which includes a railroad crossing directly west of the current Enbridge facility. Speed limits for the area would be reduced from 70 mph to 55 mph. The eastbound lane would have a combined right-turn and placarded-truck pullout lane at the railroad crossing and 296th Street, thus providing two through-lanes and one turning lane at the Enbridge site.

 

The westbound lane would have a combined acceleration lane and placarded-truck pullout lane that would allow westbound trucks leaving the Enbridge facility to make a wide left turn and have their own lane to stop at the railroad tracks. Westbound school buses, agricultural equipment and other vehicles required to stop at railroad crossings would also use that lane, which was designated for the far right side of the roadway.

 

“The cost for this, which Enbridge would pay, is estimated at $1 million,” Homeniuk said. “Right now, we’re looking at 75 trucks a day unloading at this facility. Some will turn west, some will turn east [as they return to U.S. 2].”

 

The audience listened quietly as Homeniuk described the plans for the site, but the traffic control measures proposed for U.S. Highway 2 sparked a lively discussion. Individuals questioned the length of the westbound pullout lane, the number of trucks entering and exiting the facility at that entrance, and the feasibility of a semi-trailer making a left turn across six lanes of traffic and the median.

 

“We all learned in driver’s ed that you assume a driver making a left turn goes into the closest lane,” said Colleen Birdsall. “They don’t cross two lanes and then turn.”

 

Other members of the group pointed out a curve and dip in the roadway near that location made the westbound lane dangerous anyway, and that empty semi-trailers would only exacerbate the problem.

 

“The DOT is concerned about through traffic, and we’re concerned about trucks making turns,” said Berthold mayor Alan Lee. “We’re trying to accomplish two things with one lane.”

 

Jim Watts, an attorney for Enbridge, said the NDDOT doubted the current median space at that location would allow for a third lane to be added to the inner side of the westbound roadway.

 

Berthold resident Ralph Birdsall countered with his concern a semi-trailer would block traffic if it crossed the eastbound lane and then waited in the median turning zone to complete a left turn across two more highway lanes to reach its own lane.

 

“I believe the DOT was looking at the natural tendency for those trucks to turn wide,” said Homeniuk. “This may not be a final solution, but this is what they’re telling us right now. We’re willing to work with the DOT and the city of Berthold and to fund the right solution.”

 

“This is a brand new [facility] we’re building, and we’re building it wrong,” said Birdsall. “Put the darn thing on the other side of the tracks.”

 

Other individuals agreed with Birdsall. “It would be easier for the city of Berthold residents to accept this if you moved the facility to the west side,” said Dan DeRouchey.

 

Homeniuk said other options had been considered, including building the expansion west of the current Enbridge facility. “There’s a wetland there, so there are more environmental concerns,” he said, “and our main pipeline is on the east side of the railroad tracks. We’ve filed our permit [with the North Dakota Public Service Commission] for the preferred location. At the end of the day, Enbridge wants to be here. I think Berthold wants us here.”

 

During the informal question and answer exchange, resident Bill Feickert described the benefits Enbridge would reap from the proposed expansion. “Enbridge is moving 40,000 barrels a day from here up to Saskatchewan down to Cushing, Oklahoma, making $2 a barrel for Enbridge,” he said. “That would be a $29 million a year increase in your gross revenue, and to increase the flow up to 145,000 barrels per day would make about $100 million a year for Enbridge, which would make you smile. What is going to make the people of Berthold smile? You guys are going to do well. Are the people going to do well?”

 

He continued by talking about his visit to BNSF Railway offices in Billings, Montana, where BNSF officials told him they would install a railroad crossing for Enbridge if the pipeline company developed their facilities west of the current site. Feickert returned with the paperwork to prove it. “I just wanted everybody to know you could have your private crossing,” he said. “I want to see them do business here. They’re the number one in the U.S. and Canada, but I’d just like to see them do it to the west.”

 

A question arose about the responsibility of the private companies who lease the truck unloading sites and potential spills. “In our contract with those companies, they have the obligation to maintain [their sites] in environmentally sound condition,” Watts explained.

 

Formal comments

and the vote

No adjacent landowners addressed the Planning/Zoning Committee, but several individuals were prepared to deliver a formal comment. Blake Inman said he was not in favor of the location in the proposal, partly because of highway safety considerations. “It sets a bad precedent for future industrial expansion,” he said.

 

Jean Fegley noted she had heard positive responses to Enbridge’s expectations for maintenance of the site. “Enbridge sets the standard for how these facilities look,” she said.

 

Andy Fjeldahl said the expansion could have positive effects on Berthold, but he was especially concerned about the traffic safety issues on U.S. 2. “It would be nice to have another business...in town,” he said, “but I’d like to see more work on the DOT side.”

 

Ralph Birdsall reiterated his earlier position that Enbridge should use 80 acres west of their current site.

 

Inman noted the city’s lagoon and lift station were located west of town, toward the site proposed for expansion by Enbridge, and suggested that any future growth of the city would take place in that direction. “The closer we can get to the lagoon and lift station, the better,” he said.

 

Members of the Planning/Zoning Committee took a few minutes to discuss the comments and Enbridge’s proposal. They unanimously passed a motion to deny the request to rezone the parcel in question from agricultural to industrial use.

 

The Committee’s decision will be forwarded as a recommendation to the Berthold City Council, which will make the official decision regarding Enbridge’s current proposal.

 

The Public Service Commission will also act on Enbridge’s application with the state, with a meeting scheduled for August 4th, although Inman noted the PSC could postpone their action until after the Berthold City Council meeting.

 

Representatives from Enbridge appreciated the input and comments from the audience. “Part of the purpose of this hearing is to hear the concerns and considerations of those attending,” said Myhre.

 

“We’ll attend next Monday’s meeting and follow through on the process,” added Watts.

 

The Berthold City Council will hold its next regular meeting on Monday, August 9th, at City Hall, beginning at 7:30 pm.