Archeological Survey team assesses risk of Keystone pipeline
The Oklahoma Archeological Survey is part of a team assessing the possible impact the Keystone XL pipeline would have on cultural heritage in Oklahoma.
Ben Williams, The Oklahoma Daily
The Keystone pipeline currently runs from Canada through the Midwest, going as far south as Cushing, Okla., according to the State Department. The company TransCanada is proposing an extension that would build another line between Canada and the Midwest and extend the line farther south to Texas.
At A Glance
• TransCanada asked for presidential permission to build and extend the pipeline in 2008
• Oklahoma Archaeological Survey and other groups assessed damage from 2008 to 2011
• In December 2011, Congress gave the president 60 days to determine if the pipeline was “in the national interest”
• President Barack Obama denied permission in January because he did not have not enough information to determine if the pipeline was best; agreed that by the beginning of 2013, groups would have enough time to get more information and suggest reroutes
• If approved, the pipeline will be about 1,661 miles long, will carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day and cost an estimated $7 billion
Source: State Department
The Oklahoma Archeological Survey worked with American Resources Group and Steven W. Carothers and Associates Environmental Consultants to examine the likelihood of the proposed route damaging cultural heritage or harming the environment, survey Director Bob Brooks said.
Cultural heritage is any evidence of previous civilizations, such as burial grounds, remains or artifacts.
TransCanada sent the planned route of the pipeline to the survey, which compares the map to sites archeologists already know about, Brooks said.
Overall, the groups found the proposed pipeline route interfered with 88 archeological sites and 34 historic structures, according to the report given to TransCanada. Of those, 17 sites and 12 structures were considered valuable enough to recommend the company change routes. The line also crossed over Historic Route 66.
The survey knows of over 26,000 cultural sites in the state it has to protect, but that number can be misleading, Brooks said.
“Just because there’s nothing known about those places, [it] doesn’t mean there’s nothing there,” he said.
If the survey does fid artifacts a pipeline could damage, it suggests companies reroute it, he said. However, if the company decides it must follow a particular route, a team will go to the site where the cultural heritage was found and recover as much as it can before construction begins.
Although this isn‘t the preferred method of preserving cultural heritage, it is sometimes the only option, Brooks said.
“We don’t really lose the information,” he said. “We lose the resource, but the information is still preserved.”
President Barack Obama, based on recommendations by the State Department, rejected the pipeline proposal in January because there was not enough information of the impact on certain areas, particularly Nebraska, according to a press release.
The survey has worked with other pipelines proposed in the states as well, Brooks said. Energy companies build lines on a regular basis, anywhere from 30 to 100 miles in length.
Typically the survey recommends more than half of the pipelines’ route be surveyed before construction based on its knowledge of the Oklahoma landscape and evidence of what cultures may have lived there, Brooks said.
The survey also makes sure any construction projects, such as oil and gas wells, roads and bridges or cell phone towers do not interfere with cultural items, Brooks said.
The survey receives about 7,000 projects a year, he said. Daily project requests can range from 10 on a slow day to 40 or 50 on a busy day.