Pipeline worries landowners

Trouble with farmland in southern Wood County has nothing to do with pests, problems with water or the
growing season.
The impact of a proposed natural gas pipeline could be as harmful for farms as it would be on the
landowners themselves, said Tom Waldock. While the precise route of the pipeline hasn’t been determined
as surveying work continues, Waldock said it’s unlikely the 42-inch pipeline goes anywhere but through
the heart of his farm.
In a partnership with the Stearns families, Waldock helps farm about 2,000 acres of corn, beans and
vegetables near Bloomdale and Cygnet. Their land earlier this year became the target of surveyors
looking to position the Rover Pipeline, which would transport gas from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West
Virginia up into Canada.
Too dangerous to be located along the Ohio Turnpike or other roadways, the company, Energy Transfer,
wants to run the 800-mile line through about 80-percent farmland as part of a $4.3 billion project it
says would create 10,000 temporary construction jobs and $153 million in taxes.
A potential economic benefit is of little consolation to Waldock though, who says the figures discussed
in exchange for an easement through his fields are far too low at $30 per foot. A similar pipeline
effort surfaced about 10 years ago and eventually stalled, but Waldock recalled calculating that he
stood to lose as much as $250 per foot.
He also pointed out that owners of shale land that produces the oil receive hefty royalty checks each
year, while residents here are only to be paid once for the inconvenience of the line that will
transport that product.
If they can’t stop the pipeline all together, farmers should join together to contest that valuation,
Waldock said.
Waldock said the company would ask for a 150-foot easement for installation, which would require removal
of 8 to 12 inches of topsoil, the fertile ground that produces healthy crops. After digging a 10-foot
trench, the topsoil would eventually be put back, but mixing it with the clay underneath would affect
the land’s vitality, and a smaller permanent easement would remain.
The most severe impact would be from compaction of the soil from the machines used during pipeline
installation, Waldock said.
"If there’s no place for the roots to go, your yields are just ugly."
Mike Stearns, who also farms the area, said the project will affect the overall value of the property,
even that untouched by the pipeline, which could tarnish what he has to leave his children. He’s farmed
here for nearly his entire life, and his father, Jack, has owned land in the area since the 1950s,
Stearns said.
He pointed out that even a small project – like the 12-inch gas line being installed near Ohio 199 just
north of Fostoria – creates problems.
"I look at the mess they’ve got and I just can’t imagine what a 42 inch line will be like,"
Stearns said.