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Pipelines are located in right-of-ways that are granted by landowners, businesses or government entities. These right-of-ways are secured through easements, which govern the activities of both the pipeline operator and the landowner.

It is important to understand that not all right-of-ways are the same size. Some are “defined” and have a certain size and boundaries, while others are “undefined” without a certain size but a presumed “over and across” space. This results in a right-of-way that ranges from just the width of the facility itself to 10, 25 or other increments up to 100 feet, or more depending on the circumstances.

There are many factors that determine the size of a right-of-way. These include the number of pipelines in the right-of-way, the size of the pipeline, the period of time in which the easement was acquired, the wishes of the pipeline operator and the landowner when the negotiations for the right-of-way occurred and even state statutes or regulatory agency decisions among others.

As a public official who may work with landowners and/or companies who excavate, or make decisions that impact the placement of facilities, this is important as you make general planning, zoning and land-use decisions each day. Encroachment upon public facilities such as pipelines, water, sewer and other underground infrastructure can significantly affect the integrity of the facility as well as the safety of the surrounding community.

Managing and protecting the right-of-way is key. It assists with the placement of new facilities and the ability to access the area for routine pipeline monitoring and maintenance. More importantly, it provides for access to the facility if an emergency situation occurs. Educated decisions and proper planning ensures the safe, efficient, and reliable delivery of resources and services to your residents, businesses, and communities.