Understanding Pipeline Right Of Way

By Essie Osborn

There are numerous pipes buried below the ground where they cover miles and miles across fields. They are used to connect utility supplies to customers from distribution points, storage tanks and compressor stations. Pipeline right of way becomes a necessity for the individuals to understand. It usually is a strip of land covering 60 by 120 feet or 18 by 36 meters. The common name used for this situation is ROW. The depth to which the pipes are buried varies from one area to the other.

The ROW is used to test, inspect, maintain and respond to emergencies relating to pipelines. The sensitivity of the matter means that some activities cannot be carried out in the area. The aim of such restrictions is to protect the public and their properties. It is also aimed at guaranteeing the integrity of the pipeline. Prohibition of activities is guided by the fact that they have the potential of causing danger in form of property damage or bodily harm.

Along the ROW, there are beacons or markers placed strategically to warn those using the area. They can clearly be seen on roads, railways and reasonable intervals along the path. They are indications of approximate areas and not necessarily the exact location. The ROW comes with varying depths and location for the pipes but this is not indicated by the beacons. The markers only caution because the area is considered sensitive.

The ecosystem and activity in an area determine the details of a ROW. There are differences on cultivated fields, urban areas and sub-arctic tundra, among other areas. This means that there is something unique in every area. Any activity around this area must be sanctioned and guided by available maps. A similar approach is not applied in all areas.

There are different ways of acquiring ROW. They also are available to different entities depending on the nature of work being performed underground. Land owners, government and other utilities can obtain ROW. It is available through easement, license or permit. The other option, which is rare, involves a purchase. The purchase is negotiated with the current land owner and depends on how much is required.

Most of the damages on pipelines arise out of third party activities. Laws at federal, state and provincial or county level require that anyone excavating near a pipeline to inform the authorities in charge and carry their quick-contact details. The aim is to protect the environment as well as persons living in that area. Such knowledge also helps to reduce the risk on the network. The precautions should be taken before any excavation work has begun.

The physical presence of authorities is required during excavation around areas that are protected by ROW. The activities where permits must be obtained include erection of berms, deep tilling or altering soil grade, fixing or improvements on existing drainage, ditches, fences and such infrastructure. The installation of underground or overhead utility around the area requires close supervision. Similar control is exercised around construction of parking, railways, paving and driveways.

Engaging consultants when working around ROW protected areas helps to avoid conflict with the law. The consultants are useful in locating markings and the pipeline, obtaining permits and coordinating to guarantee the presence of supervising authorities. With such experts, your work remains overboard.

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