Geology thwarts railroad, makes KXL untenable

Until 1996, there were no significant stretches of ribbon. It was all stick rail, 30 and 25 mph, with lots of 10 mph restrictions. In ’96, the state of South Dakota loaned DM&E the money to replace Wolsey-Pierre with ribbon, as the track condition was so abysmal it was nearing shutdown by FRA [Federal Rail Administration]. DM&E got federal loans starting in 2004 that enabled them to lay significant stretches of ribbon each year since. CP has continued that practice, leading to the situation now, where the majority of the main line is ribbon. The Fort Pierre-Wasta segment is still all 10 mph stick rail. Plans were that if the coal project got built, that whole stretch would be moved onto a new alignment parallel to the current one. They'd haul in clean fill from other places. The geology underlying that stretch, known as the Pierre Shale, turns to slurry when it gets wet. [Andy Cummings, Trains, May 9, 2011]
Recall the reminder from TCMack that the Army Corps of Engineers touted the construction of the Oahe Dam on the geological formation known as Pierre Shale. That same shale accounts for the systematic breakup of roadways and railbeds in South Dakota likewise confounding KeystoneXL pipeline engineers.

Note this publication archived at the USGS:
... The non-tectonic origin for this deformation is strongly supported by the observation that, since construction was completed in 1962, movement on a fault in the Pierre Shale near the spillway of Oahe Dam (about 10 km north of the city of Pierre) has created a 1.5-m-high scarp. This scarp formed without any notable seismic events.
The topic was covered at the conference of the United States Society on Dams in 2009: Slope Stability Concerns on Pierre Shale, Oahe Dam - Pierre, South Dakota...655, Robert J. Worden and Michael T. Kelly, Corps of Engineers.

Robert Schneiders took listeners' calls on Bill Janklow's idea of public radio.

A Pierre radio station and the Rapid City Journal reported that sinkholes developed in Stanley County, 28 June, 2011 during record mountain snowmelt and rainfall in the upper Missouri River basin:
KCCR radio reports that state Transportation Department crews already have filled a large hole that developed on state Highway 1806. It was estimated at 6 feet across and 10-15 feet deep.
The earthquake that occurred ten miles under the sinkholes that developed in the Pierre Shale in Stanley County that June was just one large enough to be felt by the humans that live there. An earthquake bot in ip's Twitter feed recorded ripples preceding the South Dakota event.
The Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern (DM&E) Roundhouse site is a locomotive maintenance facility in Huron, South Dakota. Wastewater from the facility containing petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organics, and heavy metals were conveyed to ponds and subsequently discharged into a creek which in turn flowed into the James River. In the early 90's approximately 100 dead birds were found in and near the ponds by federal and state employees. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has worked with DM&E; to drain the ponds and clean up the site. [US Fish and Wildlife Service]
Former Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad President Kevin Schieffer greased South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Schieffer recently sucked his way into a post on the Board of Regents.

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