Beck proposes local firm inspect possible pipeline project

Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Brad Beck, president of Beck Engineering, discussed a possible agreement with the county for inspection of trench work and other aspects of the Midwest Carbon Express. About 20 miles of the pipeline are expected to carry liquified carbon dioxide across Dickinson County, and the pipeline's proposed path crosses 31 other counties. Beck is the second firm to offer its services for inspecting the project's impact on local agricultural lands. (Photo by Seth Boyes)

Correction Sept. 24, 2021: A previous version of this story said the proposed pipeline would cross 32 of Iowa's counties. Iowa Utilities Board Member Josh Byrnes explained Thursday that while 32 public meetings will take place to inform communities on the pipeline, only 31 counties are included one of the meetings will be virtual. The story has been updated accordingly.

A second proposal for the inspection of trench and restoration work associated with an expected pipeline has been submitted to county officials. Brad Beck, president of Beck Engineering, spoke to the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning, offering the firm's services to inspect multiple aspects of the project. The county is required to conduct the inspections under Iowa law, but it may hire a company to do so. The board heard from a Des Moines firm last week, and the supervisors generally agreed Tuesday they will likely make their decision on the proposals after an upcoming informational meeting on the pipeline.

The pipeline, called the Midwest Carbon Express, is expected to carry liquified carbon dioxide across 31 of Iowa's counties. Locally, about 20 miles of pipeline are slated to be installed across the eastern portion of Dickinson County largely running north and south with a junction at the Green Plains ethanol plant near Superior, according to information in a recent public notice. It was said during last week's board meeting that the pipeline is meant to carry the liquified gas from Iowa's ethanol plants as it's sequestered in either Illinois or North Dakota. The Midwest Carbon Express is under the umbrella of Summit Carbon Solutions. While a number of the local board of supervisors voiced opposition to having the pipeline thrust upon the county, it's unclear if the state and federal permitting process allows room for local-level resistance to such a project.

Beck said his firm, while not responsible for inspection of the pipeline itself, would look at aspects of its construction which affect the county's agricultural lands. Beck Engineering would inspect trenching, backfill, topsoil work, removal of rocks, permanent or temporary tile work, restoration of the land's contour and vegetation, etc. similar to the proposal presented to the board last week. However, Beck indicated his firm has an advantage as a local company in that his employees can respond to the project needs quickly and easily.

"Sometimes during construction there's issues that need to be dealt with in a very timely manner," Beck said. "Being just a few miles from all the project sites will allow us to do that."

He said his firm has logged hundreds of engineering and surveying projects in just the last few years, and a majority of the engineering projects his team has tackled in the past 20 years have involved some sort of trench work. Beck himself specifically cited a water main project in Okoboji and a sanitary sewer improvement in Terril the city of Terril is not far from the proposed path of the Midwest Carbon Express. Beck said his firm is also accustomed to communicating with landowners and will be willing to do so if concerns arise before, during or after the pipeline project.

"We've always stood by our projects, and I think anybody we've worked with will tell you that, so if there's an issue, we're not going to run away," Beck said, noting each of the county supervisors likely has his personal cell phone number. "You guys know where to call, and we'll navigate through that process to figure out if the issue was caused by the pipeline project or if there's another issue upstream or downstream. We're certainly going to be here. We've been here 20-plus years in the county, and we're not going anywhere."

Iowa Code requires the pipeline company to reimburse the county for the inspections, but Beck stressed it is solely the county's decision who conducts the inspections. Dickinson County Engineer Dan Eckert said during last week's meeting that his office was potentially capable of handling the necessary inspections, but it would be a large task and would require significant planning. He told the board of supervisors it might be better for the county to hire an outside firm, especially if the financial cost will ultimately rest on the pipeline company rather than the taxpayer.

An informational meeting on the proposed pipeline is scheduled for noon on Sept. 23 at the Dickinson County Expo Building in Spirit Lake. The board of supervisors generally agreed they felt comfortable waiting until after that meeting to decide who will be conducting the necessary inspections. The board is expected to put the item up for discussion and a possible vote during its Sept. 28 meeting.

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