Landowner Statements on Iowa’s Water

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{These statements were read by either the landowner or a surrogate at the Broken Heartland Rally at the State Capitol in response to the Iowa Utilities Board ruling on June 6, 2016 to allow construction of the Bakken Pipeline to begin.}


ANONYMOUS LANDOWNER, LYON COUNTY: Before our lifetime, all the water on the prairie was known to be vitally important. It was pre-interstate highway. Hunting expeditions with others took place at major points along any flowing river. This was vital for food and other necessities to survive on the prairie. Any animal in the wild would come to a water source to survive, and so did man. Plant life is also more abundant along a water source.

Gatherings with others were always near water. It could be a ceremony of celebration or of sorrow, a gathering to plan an attack or plan a hunting expedition.

All of my life, I was told there are burial mounds along the Big Sioux River. There are state historical markers in many places along the Iowa and South Dakota sides. New historical sites are being recognized and protected in the last fifteen years. Many of these historical sites are on very hilly land that cannot be tilled for crop production, so there may be more undiscovered historical sites that would be in the path of the Bakken Pipeline.

Would Dakota Access want their relatives exhumed and disturbed?

We are 150 years advanced, however technology is not always the answer and it does not always work. In April of 2016, an oil pipeline started leaking about 50-60 miles away. Technology and sensors did not find the leak when it started. A human who tends his land found the leak.

The Big Sioux River and other rivers and creeks in Iowa and South Dakota have vital wild life. A creek on my own land has an endangered minnow: The Topeka Shiner. What would a spill or leak do to endangered fish and water plants?

Years ago the Native Americans did not trust the “White Man.” Today we do not trust the “Big Corporate Man.” There is too much risk in destroying this native land along the Sioux River and the sacredness to all the ancestors who used this water area to sustain their lives.

I invite the Iowa Utilities Board to come walk the paths in the hills and creeks along the Sioux River. Feel the real importance of the Historical Area and visualize the damage and destruction Dakota Access will do. Please come and tour Blood Run on the South Dakota and Iowa side of the Big Sioux River. Visit Gitchie Manitou on the Iowa side of the River.

This river area is very important in history. Once you are out of the river valley, the crop land is the richest in nutrients and most valuable in the whole state of Iowa. Why are we going to let construction and leaks ruin a valuable asset to the state of Iowa?


MARY ANN MONTGOMERY, CHEROKEE COUNTY: Water resources are so interconnected that we cannot hope to protect our iconic waterways – the Mighty Mississippi, the Big Muddy Missouri, the Great Lakes – without also protecting the steady streams and neighborhood lakes that feed them.

The Little Sioux River in northwest Iowa drains the largest watershed of any tributary of the Missouri River in Iowa. The Little Sioux River is a slow river, with a gradient of about 2 feet per mile, that winds through glacial hills and plains from near the Minnesota/Iowa border to its mouth at the Missouri River near the town of Little Sioux.

This river supports agriculture, industry, municipalities and recreational users throughout its length. In Cherokee County alone, there are 10 public access areas to allow recreationists to enjoy the Little Sioux River for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, birding and other recreational uses. The primary game fish species are catfish, walleye, and northern pike. River otters have been released into the river and the American bald eagle population has burgeoned in the last few years.

The Little Sioux River watershed is dense with some of the most important archaeological sites in Iowa. Most of these sites are located on private property. On the Little Sioux River alone, there are more than 250 recorded archaeological sites, and only 3% have been professionally surveyed.

The rich agricultural land through which this river flows, was identified by botanist Dr. Ada Hayden as having some of the best native prairie left in the state of Iowa and much of it still exists. Several globally rare species can be found in the Little Sioux Valley, including the federally-threatened bush clover and the eastern prairie fringed orchid. The beautiful, fragile orchid can be viewed on the Steele Prairie located near the town of Larrabee, Iowa.

All of this — as well as our groundwater which is necessary to our very survival — is threatened by any attempt to transport a toxic liquid through the Little Sioux River watershed. Northwest Iowa has been blessed with an abundant supply of life-giving water. Do we want to risk its loss for a very small, short term financial gain?


DONNIELLE WANATEE, MESKWAKI NATION: (Statement presented orally at Broken Heartland Rally, June 6, 2016.)


CYNDY COPPOLA, CALHOUN COUNTY: This pipeline is wrong on many levels. Today, I’d like to focus on an April 30 article in The Des Moines Register reporting a study launched after a sensor in the Alps began registering spikes in ethane concentrations in 2010 after decades of decline.

Searching for the source, an aircraft from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sampled air from directly overhead and downwind of the drilling rigs in the Bakken region. Those measurements showed ethane emissions FAR HIGHER THAN WHAT WAS BEING REPORTED BY OIL AND GAS COMPANIES.

Further studies report that the fossil fuel production at the Bakken is emitting roughly 2% of the ethane detected in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Ethane reacts with sunlight to form ozone, which can trigger respiratory problems, HARMS AGRICULTURAL CROPS and causes global warming.

How can the Iowa Utilities Board make a case that this is in the public good? It is time to say no to big oil’s corporate greed and stop enabling further pollution of our planet.


WESLEY & TERESA PHIPPS, BOONE COUNTY: We live on land in the Des Moines River valley owned by our family since 1879. The proposed pipeline would lay within 200 yards of our private water supply. It is our opinion the rights of the free man granted to us and protected by our Republic’s Constitution have been grossly violated. We fear our so-called officials have secretly agreed to this pipeline. We are seeing evidence of this, by the pipeline asking to begin construction in certain areas.

It’s plain common sense to have the understanding the pipeline people know they will be building this pipeline. Why would any company invest in the partial construction of a pipeline without assured guarantee by officials they will be able to complete the pipeline? Legal tactics do not make them lawful. Only lawful practices honor people’s rights that are protected for us by our US Constitution. Unlawful laws, rules and regulations are null and void to the free man. The US Constitution is still the Supreme Law of the Land and we are still a free people. Our officials have lost understanding of this over the years.

But ignorance is not excuse of the law. Landowners do have rights and we must remind our officials of the fact. The actions of the pipeline people and some of our elected officials, to this point in time, have been based on legality. But, their actions have not been lawful. The pipeline people are like a spoiled, little child, belly down on the floor, fist pounding, screaming, “I want my pipeline, I want my pipeline!” I only hope the Utilities Board are the wise, mature parents to say that one powerful concept…. “NO!”

Politics are a cancer upon the rights of free people. As Thomas Jefferson recommended, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind them down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

PETER CLAY OF DES MOINES: The Des Moines River is the largest free-flowing river crossing Iowa — 525 miles in length. Its watershed encompasses nearly 15,000 square miles, more than a quarter of our state. Iowa’s state capital takes its name from the River.

Many Native American tribes lived near the River, relied upon it for water and used it as a travel route. Many of their historical and cultural sites, especially including sacred burial sites, are located near the Des Moines River, including in Boone County.

Along with its tributary, the Raccoon River, the Des Moines River provides drinking water for over 500,000 people! We must not put in harm’s way this precious river. It is truly at the heart of our state. We are here to state plainly that we will protect the Des Moines River and ALL of our rivers!


DAN HIGGINBOTTOM, POLK COUNTY: The Skunk River is no more or less important than any other watershed in Iowa, the Midwest, the US, or even the world for that matter. All are important to the health and well-being of the natural and human environments. However, the Skunk River and the lands that comprise the Chichaqua Bottoms are unique, and are sources of great pride for those of us who have spent our lives living, working, and playing there.

The Skunk River landscape has been one of the richest in natural resources and the most productive agriculturally throughout prehistory and history. Thanks to the efforts of the Polk County Conservation Board, local landowners, and partners Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, NRCS and so many others, the Chichaqua Greenbelt is preserved as the last true wild place in Polk County. It is a publicly owned treasure, years in the making.

However, all of these efforts to restore and preserve a place of wild beauty could be undone in a single catastrophic event. This one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable resource could be poisoned forever by a single spill from a pipeline owned by an out-of-state, for profit company that has NOTHING invested in Polk County, its people, or its resources.

There are many who are indifferent about this project because it doesn’t affect their land, and there are others seduced by the possibility of good-paying, temporary jobs that the project brings into the area. Sadly, those people do not recognize –- or just do not care — about the horrible precedents that are being set by this project. Maybe next time it will be their land taken by a private company for a pipeline, interstate power line, mega mall, or real estate developer, who promises jobs and an increased local tax base. And perhaps in ten or twenty years, those who were temporarily employed by today’s construction will see all of that money disappear in increased taxes to help clean up the land and water contaminated by the very structure they helped to build. All because the parent company opted to cut-and-run and leave the mess, but none of the profits, behind.

My family understands and accepts the government’s need to ‘take’ private property when such a taking legitimately serves the collective interests of the commonwealth. Such instances may include a road, a sewer, or even a pipeline or power line for the delivery of energy commodities within the state that the infrastructure is located. The Bakken Pipeline serves no such purpose, and the ‘taking’ about to be granted by the Iowa Utilities Board in this case goes well beyond that of just the land. It is a ‘taking’ of water, it is a ‘taking’ of clean air, it is a ‘taking’ of wildlife, it is a ‘taking’ of archaeological and cultural heritage, it is a ‘taking’ of due process, it is a ‘taking’ of the public trust, it is a ‘taking’ of fair and impartial government, it is a ‘taking’ of constitutional guarantees, it is a ‘taking’ of public safety, and in the end, it is a ‘taking’ of Iowa’s future.


BRENDA KNOX, LEE COUNTY: The City of Keokuk depends on the Mississippi River for its drinking water, and a spill from the Bakken Pipeline could affect 22,000 people in the Keokuk area who draw our water from the River.

Beyond that, a spill into the Des Moines River, or the Skunk River, or for that matter any tributary of the Mississippi, could have the same effect.

Dakota Access will have to bore deep under the Mississippi to lay its pipeline. That causes a lot of concern here because of the River’s strong currents. It’s a very, very swift river, and our weather is so unpredictable. Any of these things could potentially cause damage to the pipeline, a leak, and the loss of our drinking water. It’s a monstrous undertaking, with potentially monstrous consequences.

ELAINE FOLEY, LEE COUNTY: Our farm is near Sandusky, 5 miles north of Keokuk. Keokuk got an award for the quality of its drinking water last year, from the State of Iowa. A pipeline spill in or near the Mississippi River would be a disaster for our area.