Our approach to land and water management during operations and capital growth projects includes selecting sites that reduce impacts; restoring habitats affected during construction; and assessing water use and opportunities for use reduction.
Facility and pipeline construction planning often requires us to adopt a scalable approach to site selection and pipeline routing to minimize ecological and cultural impacts. The environmental evaluation of a proposed project location typically involves a review for the presence of the following factors:
ONEOK is committed to selecting a project route that will minimize the effect on communities and the environment, while also allowing for economic viability of the project, as well as safe construction and operation once complete. Wherever possible, we refrain from site selection in protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value. We avoid and minimize impacts to sensitive resources by considering alternate locations or adjusting our construction methodology and site design.
Where applicable before construction begins, preliminary route and site locations undergo an extensive environmental review and/or permitting process. We survey portions of the project footprint to identify potential effects on environmental and cultural resources where applicable. Surveys also involve conducting studies of local wildlife, water and soil conditions and integrating survey findings into the decision-making process and adapting project-specific impact minimization strategies. Our minimization approach is specific to each project and/or location and may include construction timing restrictions, project footprint alteration, buffered exclusion zones and alternative construction methods. Where possible, we also co-locate our linear projects with existing pipeline routes to limit habitat fragmentation.
Our projects, through proper environmental management, may be considered to have a temporary impact on ecological resources, where applicable. We work closely with regulators to develop appropriate mitigation and conservation approaches that serve to offset our potential environmental impacts. Additionally, construction on protected lands requires us to work closely with regulatory representatives, and generally involves additional permit-specific minimization and mitigation strategies, as part of the alternatives analysis for a project.
As we continue to grow our business, the restoration of habitats that may be affected during construction of large infrastructure projects remains a key focus. This includes determining the appropriate seed mixes and plant species in the area as well as properly segregating topsoil to restore the right of way following construction. We take into account landowner concerns in our restoration strategies and communicate restoration expectations to our contractors.
Additionally, water use, supply and resource conservation are important components of our operations. By assessing our water use through benchmarking and monitoring equipment, we identify opportunities for water reduction and reuse; potential inefficiencies across our operations, including undetected repairs like buried leaks; and cost savings.
We take proactive steps to assess and lessen our potential effects to water resources.
This includes a three-tiered conservation approach:
ONEOK has proactively supported the conservation of the monarch butterfly, whose population has declined by 90% in the last 20 years. Our efforts align with Monarch Watch’s nationwide landscape restoration program aiming to restore 20 milkweed species, which are used by monarch caterpillars as food, to their native ranges as well as encourage the planting of nectar-producing native flowers that support adult monarchs and other pollinators.
The lifespan of an adult Dakota skipper—a small to medium-sized North American butterfly pictured on the cover of this report—may be only three weeks, but efforts to restore its habitat along the route of an NGL pipeline project in McKenzie County, North Dakota, are longstanding.
The largest, most stable skipper population is in North Dakota, making the insect an important species to monitor.
With construction activity within roughly 185 acres of native grasslands, the project team took meaningful steps and actions to assist in the conservation and preservation of native grasslands, the primary habitat for the Dakota skipper.
Habitat restoration will include specific seed mixes and plant species for the area, as well as properly separating soil throughout construction.
Impact minimization for the skipper will consist of herbicide, dust abatement and reseeding restrictions throughout the duration of the project. Route adjustments were made to avoid all known occupied habitats, while right-of-way fencing and signage helped keep the areas free of construction.