For landowners Eldean and Norma farming has been, and always will be, an important part of their lives. Born and raised in Southeast Nebraska and married for almost 57 years, the two didn’t start out with much, but have since made a good living for themselves and their family, farming and working together in Nebraska.
“We started with nothing,” says Eldean. “We rented for 17 years from a lady and we were dairy milk farmers there. And I couldn’t have handled all the work if it hadn’t been for my wife.”
“Well, we just worked together — team work,” says Norma. “I think that’s the way any business, farm business or any other is, you have to work together.”
And their teamwork certainly paid off. After 17 years of renting, they were finally able to purchase and move on to their own piece of land, a pasture, near Steele City, Neb.
“The farm has grown,” says Eldean. “The first piece of land that we bought was this pasture where the pump station is. We had no money to put into it, but the bank went along with us anyways . . . I love that pasture.”
Several years ago, Eldean and Norma were approached by TransCanada about purchasing a piece of that pasture to build a pump station on to support the original Keystone Pipeline, which would run through the Steele City area. They were already familiar with how pipelines worked after seeing various pipelines being built in their area over the years, so the proposal of the new Keystone Pipeline didn’t raise any major concerns for them.
“We’ve had pipelines in the area,” says Norma. “They were building that natural gas pipeline when I was a kid, and when it’s all over and done, just like this one, you can’t even tell where it is. I’ve never heard in this area of anything ever being unsafe, that anybody was harmed in any way.”
So after discussions with a TransCanada land team member, who Eldean remembers as being a lot of fun and easy to get along with, they decided to sell TransCanada their land for the Keystone pump station. And according to Eldean, they received a good figure for doing so.
“The pipeline’s been good to us . . . it helped us for our retirement,” says Eldean.
Not only did the pipeline help Eldean and Norma out financially, the couple say their entire experience working with TransCanada throughout the lifespan of the project was a very positive one.
For example, one experience Eldean really enjoyed was visiting the pump station almost every day (he was even given his own hard hat and safety vest) to see first-hand the work that TransCanada was doing.
“They treated me royally,” says Eldean. “I really enjoyed working with the contractor. If they needed a little more land or needed more soil, they bought it and they paid me a decent price for it too.”
Norma feels the same way and says they never had any complaints working with TransCanada.
“They’ve been good. They always called us before they sent anyone when they said there would be someone looking over the land or checking things, they always let us know.”
According to Eldean, TransCanada also went above and beyond to restore his land back to its original state after construction was complete.
“This piece of land that they bought from us is a pasture and when you tear up pastures it’s always a problem to get it back to grass again, but they have bent over backwards to keep trying,” says Eldean. “They make sure that you are satisfied. They ask you, and if you are not you tell them ‘well I need a little more work here’ and they do it.”
Along with their positive experience working with TransCanada, Eldean and Norma also saw first-hand how the community of Steele City benefited from the construction of the pipeline and how those benefits, including employment, increased property taxes and donations, have made a real difference in the community. Norma says some of those benefits included increased business at the Steele City bar from construction workers stopping by for food or get-togethers, plus a local family’s opportunity to rent out hook-ups for workers’ RVs, as well as receiving a hefty donation from TransCanada to help rebuild the local community center.
“The community knows that they have benefitted from it and it wouldn’t have been possible for them to have an improvement of the city hall or meeting place without extra money coming in from Canada,” says Eldean.
So after their experience with the original Keystone Pipeline and TransCanada, what are their thoughts on Keystone XL? Although they have already sold their first pasture to TransCanada and the construction of Keystone XL wouldn’t cross any of their other land, they are big believers in the proposed pipeline.
“When we heard about it, I thought it sounded good. It’s that much more activity and everything for the areas,” says Norma.
“This is probably the safest pipeline that’s ever going to be built . . . some people think that you can transport this crude oil by rail, and you can, but it is not near as safe as a pipeline. The pipeline is the safest way to move that oil, and the fastest and cheapest way,” says Eldean.