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Surface Waters and Aquifers Between Cushing and the Gulf Coast

March 23, 2012

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Ogallala isn’t the only important aquifer along the Keystone XL right of way and the Yellowstone isn’t the only important river between Montana and Texas.  Remember that diluted bitumen is heavier than water and will sink.  In Oklahoma, Keystone XL will cross the following “sensitive or protected waterbodies” after leaving Cushing:

  • Red River in Bryan County;
  • Bird Creek and Little River in Hughes County;
  • Euchee Creek in Lincoln County;
  • Little Hilliby Creek in Okfuskee County; and
  • Sand Creek, Wewoka Creek, Little Wewoka Creek, and North Canadian River in Seminole County.
“Sensitive or protected waterbodies” crossed in Texas are:
  • Big Sandy Creek in Wood County;
  • Big Sandy Creek in Upshur County;
  • Angelina River in Cherokee County;
  • Angelina River and East Fork Angelina River in Rusk County;
  • Angelina River in Nacogdoches County;
  • Pine Island Bayou in Hardin County;
  • Neches River, Piney Creek, and Big Sandy Creek in Polk County; and
  • Hillebrandt Bayou in Jefferson County.

The list of waterbodies within 10 miles downstream of proposed water crossings in Oklahoma and Texas runs to pages and pages, including drainage into:

  • Stroud Lake,
  • Pat Mayse Lake Wildlife Management Area,
  • Proposed George Parkhouse Reservoir,
  • Lake Cypress Springs,
  • Lake Bob Sandlin,
  • Proposed Little Cypress Reservoir,
  • Lake Greenbriar,
  • Prairie Creek Reservoir,
  • Proposed Lake Columbia,
  • Lake Tyler, Lake Striker,
  • Davey Crockett National Forest,
  • Fiberboard Lake,
  • Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge,
  • Big Thicket National Preserve, and
  • J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area.

In Texas, the pipeline would cross 633 waterbodies.  Only 22 would use horizontal directional drilling (often called HDD, i.e., drilling beneath the bed of the waterbody to reduce risk of water contamination from spills):

  • Red River in Bryan County, OK and Fannin County TX (approximately 750 feet wide, MP 155)
  • Bois d’Arc Creek in Fannin and Lamar counties (approximately 125 feet wide, MP 161)
  • North Sulphur River in Lamar and Delta counties (approximately 350 feet wide, MP 190);
  • South Sulphur River in Delta and Hopkins counties (approximately 100 feet wide, MP 201);
  • White Oak Creek in Hopkins County (approximately 300 feet wide, MP 212);
  • Big Cyprus Creek in Franklin County (approximately 75 feet wide, MP 228);
  • Waterbody in Wood County (approximately 250 feet wide, MP 254);
  • Big Sandy Creek in Upshur County (approximately 180 feet wide, MP 256);
  • Sabine River in Upshur and Smith counties (approximately 175 feet wide, MP 262);
  • East Fork Angelina River in Rusk County (approximately 50 feet wide, MP 312);
  • Angelina River in Nacogdoches and Cherokee counties (approximately 80 feet wide, MP 333);
  • Neches River in Angelina and Polk counties (approximately 150 feet wide, MP 367);
  • Menard Creek in Liberty County (approximately 50 feet wide, MP 414);
  • Neches Valley Canal Authority (approximately 150 feet wide, MP 459);
  • Lower Neches Valley Canal Authority in Jefferson County (approximately 150 feet wide, MP 460);
  • Willow Marsh Bayou in Jefferson County (approximately 280 feet wide , MP 467);
  • Hillebrandt Bayou in Jefferson County (approximately 490 feet wide, MP 471); and
  • Port Arthur Canal and Entergy Corridor in Jefferson County (approximately 1700 feet wide, MP 478).

Where HDD isn’t used, various methods will be applied, including the “Dry Flume Method” for “flowing stream crossings”, described this way in the EIS:

  • Flume pipe shall be installed after blasting (if necessary), but before any trenching.
  • Sand bag, sand bag and plastic sheeting diversion structure, or equivalent shall be used to develop an effective seal and to divert stream flow through the flume pipe (some modifications to the stream bottom may be required in order to achieve an effective seal).
  • Flume pipe(s) shall be aligned to prevent bank erosion and streambed scour.
  • Flume pipe shall not be removed during trenching, pipe laying, or backfilling activities, or initial streambed restoration efforts.
  • All flume pipes and dams that are not also part of the equipment bridge shall be removed as soon as final clean up of the stream bed and bank is complete.

In other words, they’re putting the stream in a pipe and building the pipeline straight across it.  That worked out so well for the Yellowstone River.  Imagine that you grew up swimming and fishing in one of these lakes, streams or rivers, as your kids do now.  Imagine that your town uses it for drinking, irrigation and livestock water.  Now imagine a 36-inch diameter heated pipeline crossing it carrying tar sands bitumen diluted with toxic chemicals: a pipeline of steel from dubious origins, built just like another that leaks like a sieve, overseen by a very hands-off federal agency.  How safe do you feel?  But surface water isn’t the only thing to worry about.

All along the proposed right of way in Oklahoma and Texas, “municipal water supplies are largely obtained from groundwater sources.”  In Oklahoma, they’re “shallow alluvial and terrace aquifers.”  The number of private water wells located within 100 feet of the proposed pipeline route in Oklahoma is unknown (meaning nobody bothered to count).  Within a mile of the Texas Gulf Coast segment, there are 53 Public Water Supply wells and 36 Source Water Protection Area wells, as well as 3 private wells within 100 feet in two counties surveyed (Smith and Chambers).

In Oklahoma there are 19 water-bearing zones less than 50 feet below ground surface beneath the proposed Keystone XL right of way.  In Texas there are 22.  This is precious water in a dry, dry place, not something to gamble with lightly.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2012 3:15 pm

    I’m a journalist in Texas. Can somebody tell me where this information comes from? Thanks.

    -Dan Oko

  2. April 13, 2012 3:21 pm

    It’s from the Environmental Impact Statement.

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