Douglas Zimmerman helped his father work with TransCanada when the original Keystone oil pipeline was installed on the family’s Seward County property.

Zimmerman, who worked in St. Louis then but now owns the acreage and farmland south of Seward, researched the pipeline builder and studied the project that carries oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries.

The family got TransCanada to shift the pipeline’s path slightly so it ran closer to the property line instead of through the middle of their ground, according to Zimmerman, who couldn’t be more pleased with how the entire process went.

“Excellent,” he said. “Spelled with a capital E.”

The pipeline, buried 5 feet deep, crosses 120 acres of his ground, but Zimmerman said it’s hard to notice now.

TransCanada replaced all the topsoil and a damaged fence, reconstructed a field entrance and terraces and offered to come back and address settling issues. Zimmerman opted to do that work himself and received a check from the Canadian company to cover the costs.

“They did it with no questions asked and paid the bill,” he said. “What more could you ask for?”

Zimmerman said the condition of field is better than before the pipeline went in about seven years ago. He received a payment for three years of crop damage, but “didn’t even lose one year,” he said.

Property owners are also paid for the easements needed to bury the pipeline across their land.

Zimmerman said he doesn’t lose any sleep knowing oil is flowing under his land. In his mind, it’s safer than moving the product by truck or rail, and TransCanada isn’t the first company to build an underground pipeline in Nebraska.

“I’m not worried in the least,” he said.

The Seward County farmer has no problem with last month’s decision by the Nebraska Public Service Commission that shifts the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline east to follow the existing pipeline’s path. His only beef is that the last-minute move costs TransCanada money and further delays the project.

“As far as I’m concerned, they can come tomorrow if they want to start digging,” said Zimmerman, who expects the Keystone XL to cross his ground if it’s built.

TransCanada officials are meeting this week with landowners whose property lies in the new path for the Keystone XL, which would cut through northeast Platte County before turning south through Colfax, Butler and Seward counties. Meetings will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Ramada-Columbus, as well as in Norfolk and Seward.

“We want to give landowners a chance to come talk to TransCanada’s people in person. We understand landowners have questions in light of last month’s decision by the Nebraska Public Service Commission and we stand ready to answer those questions,” said Robynn Tysver, a spokeswoman for TransCanada.

Last month’s 3-2 decision by the state commission rejected TransCanada’s preferred route for the Keystone XL, which ran west of Columbus through Boone, Nance, Merrick and Polk counties, and shifted the project east through Madison County before the pipeline would turn into Platte County.

The adjusted route is expected to impact about 40 new landowners, mostly in Madison County, who weren’t along the preferred route and don't have the original Keystone pipeline running through their land already.

Tysver said this week’s meetings are part of the process to keep the $8 billion project moving forward, although a final decision hasn’t been made by TransCanada on whether the pipeline will be built.

That’s expected to come from the company’s board of directors later this month or early next year, according to Tysver.

Zimmerman planned to attend one of the meetings in Seward, but he doesn’t expect to hear the same “rigmarole” from landowners that’s coming from politicians.

“I have no problem it,” he said of the project.



Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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