Passerby on Highway 17 might mistake the plain wooden stakes topped with trailing neon ribbons as signs of celebration — a birthday party or family reunion, perhaps. But to the families who own the land, the stakes represent a threat to their farms’ beauty and prosperity. In this case, the threat isn’t borne by wind, water or beast, but by a proposed oil pipeline.
Though the exact route will remain preliminary until soil tests are complete, spokeswoman Vicki Granado said, the markers were placed as reference points for a proposed route for the Dakota Access, LLC pipeline that will shuttle between 450,000 and 570,000 barrels of crude oil along a 1,134-mile journey from the Bakken fields of North Dakota through eastern South Dakota and Iowa, ending up at a refinery in Illinois.
The pipeline will cross at least a dozen South Dakota counties, including Lincoln and Minnehaha. Two family farms are directly in the path of the pipeline section marked to pass under Highway 17 along the southwest edge of Tea.
The Schoffelman farm, a half-section located just east of Hwy. 17 along 273rd St., has been in the family since 1923. It now belongs to a seven-sibling group of the original owner’s grandchildren. Most still live within a 20-mile radius and are worried about the lasting damage the pipeline could have on their land.
Two of the siblings, Janice Petterson and Kevin Schoffelman, are concerned about what the future of their property might look like. The siblings have been approached in the past by developers, as has their neighbor, Laurie Kunzelman. All agree that the pipeline would diminish their property values and limit future usage options.
Kunzelman’s mother, Delores (Andreessen) Assid, is co-owner of the half-section of land just northwest of the Schoffelman property, on the west side of Hwy. 17. The land has been in the family since Henry Andreessen began homesteading there in 1883.
The pipeline is set to go diagonally through the Schoffelman and Andreessen properties, both of which are currently being used as cattle grazing pastures and cropland for soybeans and corn. Kunzelman, who has spent countless hours researching the project, recalls the cautionary tone of pre-filed testimony offered to the PUC by Brian Top, an expert witness hired by opponents to provide information on how the project could impact the land it is placed on.
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