Oil sands pipeline may threaten tribal water system

Oil sands pipeline may threaten tribal water system

News Type: State, Regional, Federal Source: Mountain West News
Click here to read the article: https://mountainwestnews.org/fort-peck-tribes-fight-keystone-xl-fb760b1752ce

The Keystone XL oil pipeline is slated to cross the Missouri River near the edge of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes say the pipeline is a threat to their drinking water and way of life.

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada plans for Keystone XL to cross beneath the riverbed of the Missouri River about a quarter mile upstream of the confluence with the Milk River, the reservation’s southwestern border. Two miles upriver of the proposed crossing site is the mile-long spillway of the Fort Peck Dam. The spillway itself functions as a safety valve to rapidly release water from the fifth largest reservoir in America when it gets dangerously high.

Seventy miles downriver, on the reservation, is the intake plant for the Assiniboine & Sioux Rural Water Supply System, a $300 million congressionally mandated drinking water treatment and supply network built after oil drilling turned much of the tribe’s aquifer north of Poplar saline and carcinogenic. Two agricultural water intakes are farther upriver, between the intake and the proposed pipeline. The big concern for local pipeline opponents like Four Star is a doomsday scenario in which heavy snowpack and spring rains fill the reservoir to its capacity, which would mandate a huge release of water from the dam to prevent it from failing. That torrent of water flowing out of the spillway would scour the riverbed downstream, and that scouring could damage or rupture the pipeline, releasing diluted tar sands bitumen into the river.