Because pipelines must cross the countryside to deliver products over long distances, the pipeline has many neighbors. Pipelines cross under creeks and rivers, highways and roads, farmers’ fields, parks, and may be close to homes, businesses or other community centers. As you may suspect, some of the land pipelines cross to get to desired locations is, inevitably, privately owned.
Written agreements, or easements, between landowners and pipeline companies allow pipeline companies to construct and maintain pipeline rights-of-way across privately owned property. Most pipelines are buried below ground in a right-of-way, which allows the landowner to still use the property in most cases. The working space needed during initial construction may be temporarily wider but the permanent right-of-way width varies depending on the easement, the pipeline system, the presence of other nearby utilities, and the land use along the right-of-way. Many of the rights-of-way range from 25-150 feet wide, but may be wider or narrower depending on specific locations.
These rights-of-way are kept clear to allow the pipeline to be protected, aerially surveyed, and properly maintained though the property could still be used. Pipeline companies are responsible for maintaining their rights-of-way to protect the public and environment, the line itself and other customers from loss of service. Pipeline rights-of-way are located in urban, suburban and rural communities.
Understanding the Right-of-Way (ROW)
A strip of land usually about 25 to 150 feet wide containing the pipeline is known as the pipeline right-of-way (ROW). The ROW:
- Enables workers to gain access for inspection, maintenance, testing, or emergencies.
- Maintains an unobstructed view for frequent aerial surveillance.
- Identifies an area that restricts certain activities to protect the landowner, the community through which the pipeline passes, and where the pipeline itself is located.