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Tribes worry oil pipeline might cross culturally important sites

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The Keystone crude oil pipeline won't cross American Indian reservations in South Dakota, but it could be located on cultural sites important to Indians, says Russell Eagle Bear, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe representative.

''We want to make sure that all the cultural properties are protected along the route,'' Eagle Bear said. ''This is moving quite fast and I think they need to work closely with tribes in the area - all the tribes.''

An official of TransCanada Corp., which is planning the 2,148-mile pipeline, said the project is not exactly breaking news. Keystone project official Jeff Rauh said it has been public knowledge for almost three years.

He said TransCanada has worked closely with state historical preservation officers and did cultural surveys and reviews to comply with historical preservation requirements.

Keystone officials also met with Rosebud Sioux tribal members in 2006 and 2007, Rauh said.

TransCanada plans to start construction this spring on the 590,000-barrel-a-day pipeline which is proposed to cross North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Its goal is to deliver Canadian crude to markets in Patoka, Ill., and Cushing, Okla.

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In North Dakota, the Public Service Commission says TransCanada has agreed to use horizontal directional drilling to bore under the Sheyenne River and its adjacent forested areas instead of cutting a 50-foot-wide path through the forested riverbanks.

A completed draft of the proposed order permitting the line's construction was anticipated to reach the commission by Jan. 25, according to Bill Binek, chief counsel for the PSC.

In South Dakota, the 220 miles of pipeline would run through Marshall, Day, Clark, Beadle, Kingsbury, Miner, Hanson, McCook, Hutchinson and Yankton counties.

Clarence Skye, executive director of the United Sioux Tribes, said the U.S. State Department did not properly notify his group of a December meeting about the Keystone project. Tribal leaders could not attend because of a previously scheduled event, Skye wrote in a letter to the State Department.

''The lack of coordination from the agency underscores the second-class citizens behavior attributed to the Bush Administration,'' Skye wrote. ''We extend our assistance to your office: However, our United Sioux Tribes Board of Directors will most likely oppose the 1,800 mile Keystone Oil Pipeline Project.''

In early January, the State Department told the United Sioux Tribes about its findings on the project.