Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Pipeline Rights-of-Way

Posted: September 12, 2010

Common questions asked about right-of-ways

1. What is the width of rights – of – way for gas pipelines?
The width of the permanent right – of –way for gathering lines generally ranges from 30 to 60 feet, depending on the company and topography of the pipe location. The construction right – of- way may be larger depending on the topography of the location.

2. What is the status of the timber on rights-of-way?
The status of the timber on rights-of-way varies according to company policy and what is written in the lease. Remember that the leasing process can help you to determine who owns what. Some companies will contract with a forester to determine the value of the timber; then the company will offer you a price based on his/her findings. Other companies may just offer you a flat rate. This is more common on a short right-of-way. Sometimes the company will keep the timber, have it logged and sell it to a mill or logger. Other times, the landowner will be responsible for having the timber cut and removed. The landowner will then be able to sell it. It may be a good idea for the landowner to obtain the services of his/her own professional forester to help with price negotiations.

3. What can I plant on a permanent right-of-way?
landowner is limited to what can be planted on the permanent right-of-way. In most cases, trees and shrubs are not allowed to be planted on the permanent right-of-way. Trees and shrubs may be planted on the construction right of way after pipeline installation is completed. Herbaceous plants and grass are allowed on the permanent right-of-way. The species may vary. As with pads, the landowner may desire to establish wildlife food plots or establish native plants on the right-of-way, bringing in it line with a more “natural setting”. The best place to make this determination is in the lease agreement. If this was not done when the lease was negotiated, many companies are willing to work with landowners and meet their requests. It is helpful to have a management or stewardship plan for a property that includes wildlife food plots, forest restoration and the associated plant species. A professional natural resource manager can help to determine appropriate plants to establish. Currently, species planted during rehabilitation are approved by the Department of Environmental Resources.

4. What are my options if a proposed right-of-way will isolate a section of my woods from my existing transportation system?
If this happens, you should negotiate for several places over the pipeline where heavy equipment (such as skidders, log trucks, feller-bunchers and forwarders) will be allowed to cross. This may not be an issue but it is a good idea. This is again best done in the initial agreement. It becomes more difficult if done after the fact. Negotiating this access will allow the landowner to actively manage this now isolated woodlot and harvest timber when the time arises.

5. How deep are the gas lines buried?
The gas lines are routinely buried a minimum of three feet deep.

6. Can I use the pipeline right-of-way for other things?
That depends on what you want to use it for! You cannot, for example, use the right-of-way as a road. However, pipelines can utilize existing road ways by laying the pipeline adjacent to the road. This is a good idea as it will avoid opening previous wooded areas and will minimize fragmentation of the forest. Once the pipeline has been successfully reclaimed, it may be used as a recreational trail, a snowmobile trail for example. This should be discussed during the negotiation process before signing the agreement. If this has not been done, check with the appropriate company to see what can be done on the right-of-way. On steep rights-of-way, using the right-of-way as an ATV track may not be a good idea because the chances for erosion are likely to increase.

7. What soil amendments might be needed to improve vegetative reclamation of the pipeline right-of-way?
Some companies routinely apply some soil amendments such as lime, nitrogen, etc. In many cases, however, no soil test has been performed to determine what combination of amendments would best meet the needs of the reclamation process. A landowner may want to include soil testing on the right-of-way, after the soil has been put back on the site and before seeding occurs, in the lease agreement. If not in the agreement, a landowner may want to encourage the appropriate company to have the soil tested. Because of the disturbance to the site, the soil is often “inverted” (that is, topsoil may end up on the bottom instead of the top when the soil is replaced), so it is better to perform soil testing after the soil has been replaced on the site.

Robert S. Hansen, D.F.

Tioga County Extension Director