MADISON — If construction of the proposed $8 billion Keystone XL project ever takes place, Madison County will be ready.
On Wednesday, the Madison County board of commissioners approved roads that would be used to construct the pipeline and authorized Dick Johnson, the county’s engineer and highway superintendent, to execute driveway permits and underground utility crossing permits.
A map of the proposed route through the county that also showed roads that would be used during construction — possibly in 2021 — was shared with the county board.
Three representatives of TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, answered questions from commissioners during about a 30-minute exchange.
The pipeline is being designed to transport the oil from western Canada to terminals on the Gulf Coast.
It has drawn opposition from people who fear it will cause environmental damage and includes some court challenges. There were no protesters at the meeting.
Richard Johnson, the county’s road superintendent, said there are about 35 road applications for permits within the county. Johnson said he would go to each site and, depending on what he finds, then sign the permit and provide it to TC Energy. The company is paying for the inspections.
Dan Forbes of TC Energy said the procedure is similar to what the company has done in other counties, usually working with the county’s road superintendent or engineer.
Forbes said the pipeline is placed underground so there is no disruption of the roads.
There were a lot of topics and questions covered on Wednesday, including who would be responsible if roads are damaged during construction.
Johnson said the company would put up a $5 million bond and insurance for up to $1 million per occurrence during construction.
Commissioner Troy Uhlir said he has read through the agreement. It appears that an engineering company from Montana will assess the county’s roads that will be used before construction.
After construction is completed, the county will have up to 30 days to view the roads. If the county sees that the roads were damaged or not repaired to at least the standard before construction, the company will repair or pay to repair them, Uhlir said.
Robert Latimer, a senior land representative with TC Energy, said even if an issue would come up two years down the road — such as a road settling or something unusual — TC Energy would look at it and repair it if needed.
The most important thing is to communicate with the company if there is a problem, he said.
Uhlir asked what would happen if a road isn’t in good enough shape to handle a heavy truck load.
Latimer said if its engineers determine that based on its typical loads, a road is not stable, the company will add surface stabilizer at its own cost to improve the road.
And if there would be heavy flooding and soft roads like last spring, the company would work with the county until the roads were stable, he said.
Latimer said the company has had considerable learning from previous construction in counties all over previously.
Ron Schmidt, who serves as the chairman of the county board, said some of the county’s roads are in sandy soils. They are more susceptible to rain but have firmed up now, he said.
The 1,184-mile pipeline proposed by TC Energy is proposed to be built in Montana and South Dakota in 2020. It is tentatively planned for Nebraska in 2021 but is subject to change.
Weather, water crossings and locations of such items as grain bins determine how long construction will take in the county, such as the number of months.
The 36-inch diameter pipeline, as proposed, would run through portions of North Central and Northeast Nebraska, including Madison County, on its way to Steele City, on the southern border of Nebraska.
Alyssa Ledon, who is the field security adviser for Nebraska, said survey crews are out now. When they go out, county sheriffs are notified.
There also are off-duty law enforcement officers who are working to protect staff, personnel and equipment in the state, she said.
The security officers include “three or four” Madison County Sheriff’s Office personnel who are contracted, Ledon said.
Madison County Commissioners’ meeting watch
Members present: Chairman Ron Schmidt, Troy Uhlir and Christian Ohl.
Others in attendance: Anne Pruss, county clerk; Richard Johnson, county highway superintendent; Joe Smith, Madison County attorney; 10 from the public and two reporters.
Meeting lasted: Two hours, 54 minutes, including early meeting as board of equalization.
— Approved interlocal agreements with the cities of Battle Creek, Madison, Meadow Grove, Newman Grove and Tilden for the county to provide radio and dispatch equipment.
— Authorized advertising for new or used dump truck, skid loader, motor grader, semi cab and excavator for the road department.
— Approved an agreement with Mainelli Wagner & Associates for Richard Johnson to provide county highway superintendent services.
— Approved a letter of engagement with D.A. Davidson & Co. to purchase new or used equipment for the road department.
— Authorized the county board chairman to execute the annual certification of program compliance to Nebraska Board of Public Roads Classifications and Standards.
— Authorized the county board chairman to execute the year-end certification of county highway superintendent Richard Johnson to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
— Approved a project agreement with Mainelli Wagner & Associates for preliminary engineering for the scoping phase for a road project.
— Conducted a public hearing and approved the application of Harry Dederman for a conditional-use permit to construct a house on less than 40 acres on Dederman Pasture Lot Split, which is northwest of Norfolk, north of the intersection of 550th Avenue. The land is zoned agricultural, and the permit is to move a house.
— Appointed Amber Sparks of Norfolk to serve as the Madison County representative on the 2020 U.S. Census committee. It is a voluntary position.
— Discussed right-of-way acquisition on 841st Road and directed Richard Johnson to report back to the county at the next meeting.
— Postponed discussion for goods and services provided by the county’s funeral businesses.
— Authorized moving a part-time employee to county status. Postponed consideration for two other employees following discussion on staffing requirements for grants from the State of Nebraska for juvenile accountability.
— Reviewed written reports and processed claims.
— Jerry Guenther