One Of Richest Fossil Resources In The World Crossed By Keystone XL Pipeline

May 28, 2020

A research article published in April 2019 has created seismic waves in the study of paleontology.

At a dig in southwestern North Dakota known as the Tanis site, paleontologists found evidence of an inland surge of water that encased animals and plants in mud minutes to hours after an impact.

Researchers have attributed this snapshot of mass death to the Chicxulub asteroid that ended the Cretaceous period in a heartbeat.

The Tanis site is found in the Hell Creek Formation, one of the richest deposits of fossils in the world. It's in this same formation, southeast of Tanis, that the T. Rex named Sue was found.

It's also where the Keystone XL pipeline is partially routed. After years of permit battles, TransCanada has now broken ground at the U.S.-Canada border and at worker camps in South Dakota and Montana. Construction in Nebraska will come later.

Victoria Wicks has listened to years of testimony before licensing boards, legislative committees, and state and federal courts. She has frequently heard witnesses argue for protection of human history and assets: the burial grounds, cultural and religious sites, mineral estates, and water resources. But preservation of fossils was rarely addressed.

She wondered why, and what might be uncovered in a pipeline trench through Western South Dakota. The result of her research is the subject of this segment of SDPB's In the Moment.

Victoria Wicks asked TC Energy if there is a paleontologist monitoring for fossils at current construction sites, particularly on Bureau of Land Management property at the border. She did not receive an answer to that question.

Click on the link below to read the research paper on the Tanis site, titled "A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota" by Robert A. DePalma, et al.

https://www.pnas.org/content/116/17/8190

To learn more about the Western Interior Seaway in a very cool interactive map put together by the Museum of Geology at the SD School of Mines and Technology, click here:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=987511ec2abd419f8a6e53e054b40bc5