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County approves material storage yard for pipeline company

There was not only an elephant in the room at Tuesday’s Carlton County Board meeting, but there were a whole lot of visitors who never said a word about it.

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The extra folks in the room were representatives of the North Dakota Pipeline Company (also known as Enbridge) and the Carlton County Land Stewards group. Both have been integrally involved in commenting on the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline, particularly as it stands to affect Carlton County and its landowners.

The only item on Tuesday’s agenda that directly involved the pipeline was the request from North Dakota Pipeline for a conditional use permit to operate a temporary material storage yard on property they lease from Lee T. Miller and Dale Miller along County Road 131 in Kalevala Township.

Planning and Environmental Services Director Heather Cunningham explained that the permit was recommended for approval by the County Planning Commission and comes with eight conditions attached regarding timing and scope of the project, periodic compliance reviews, hours of operation, lighting restrictions, traffic, dust control and signage and termination of the lease (May 7, 2019).

Commissioner Marv Bodie called attention to the fact that one of the conditions is the conditional use permit is “invalid or expires if the holder does not begin the project within one year of granting this permit.”

“Is the company going to be able to live up to that time frame?” Bodie asked.

Cunningham said the company has indicated its intention to begin prepping the site in August. This would include constructing the access from County Road 131, stripping the topsoil, constructing berms and placing gravel and culverts. She added that she does not know when the actual materials will be delivered to the site.    

Cunningham said North Dakota Pipeline has continued to say they expect construction of the Sandpiper Pipeline to begin in 2015.

The Board unanimously approved the permit with no further comment.

Several letters with comments regarding the pipeline proposal were included in the Board packet and simply noted as items of correspondence during the meeting.

Board Chair Dick Brenner asked if any of the visitors had any comments to make regarding the pipeline, but no one stepped forward. Cunningham said the Sandpiper project is still making its way through the proper channels and that no definite route has yet been announced.

“There’s nothing yet set in stone,” she added.

In other business on Tuesday’s agenda, the Board authorized the annual renewal of cabin leases on county-owned land at the cost of $275 a year, which is the same as the prior year. Land Commissioner Greg Bernu said the county currently has approximately 50 such leases. He also informed commissioners that the state of Minnesota is considering prohibiting permanent deer stands from being erected on state-owned land and suggested the county may want to consider following suit if that should happen.

The Board unanimously voted to extend the contract of Transportation Director Mike Tardy for four years.

Tardy asked that the Board approve a Highway 33 detour agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) to allow use of County/State Aid Highway 45 as a detour from July 8 to Sept. 12 during the Highway 33 reconstruction project. Tardy explained that Mn/DOT will do the maintenance on the approximately one mile of roadway during that time period and compensate the county in an amount of $2,700 to cover any “invisible damage” that might result from increased use of the road.

Commissioner Brenner gave a brief report on last week’s public meeting regarding the Highway 33 project and said there were only a couple of negative concerns voiced, one from a business and one from a church.

“There is no doubt this is going to involve some complicated staging,” acknowledged Tardy. “There is going to be a fair amount of inconvenience and it will definitely be an issue for businesses in the area. Everyone has put a lot of thought into it, however, and we’ll have to try to make the best of a difficult situation.”