There are two types of data that make up the maps on this site:
- GIS route longitude and latitude data and
- Milepost (MP) marker longitude and latitude data.
GIS Route Data: An Approximation
Perhaps of greatest interest to the public, is the GIS route data. This information is represented by the black line on the KMP maps, showing the route and its various twists and turns. Property owners and citizens look to this information to learn where the pipeline will cross their property line and how it might affect their communities. The wider public gains an immediate sense of the pipeline’s scope.
The route line, though, is merely an approximation. It represents a wider corridor (500 feet in the case of Montana and 2,000 feet for Nebraska),in which the actual pipeline construction will take place. This allows for engineers and construction crews to adjust to conditions on the ground. The downside of this corridor concept is that it can introduce uncertainty and opacity into the process, making it more difficult for communities and stakeholders to review the project.
Milepost Markers: The Key Reference Point
Crucial to the environmental review process are the MP markers. During a project’s proposal stage the MP markers represent the center-line of the corridor. They are referenced throughout the Keysone XL FEIS and are vital to interpreting any analysis found there. In the case of the Montana segment of the Keystone XL, the MP markers are in increments of one-tenth of a mile. The corridor itself is 500 feet wide. Thus, the area between MP markers is 500′ x 528′, or approximately 6 square acres – an area that is comprehensible, whether one is standing on the ground or envisioning the area on a map. By contrast, the 2000′ corridor presented in the Nebraska application, at over one-third of a mile, is likely to stretch out of view and be of less utility.
After the pipeline is completed the MP markers are readjusted so that they are no longer figurative points in space, but correlate directly to physical stakes placed in the ground above the buried pipeline. These points are added to the national database of oil and gas pipelines.
Lack of Transparency by Project Sponsors: FEIS Questionable
In regards to the proposed Keystone XL, neither TransCanada nor the Department of State will release either the GIS route data or the MP data. While both Texas and South Dakota have made the route data available, only Montana has released both the route and MP data. The lack of transparency by both the project’s sponsor and the DOS, calls into question the process leading to approval of the FEIS and, thus, the viability and true consequences of the Keystone XL itself.
For more information read the Keystone Mapping Project About page.