ALTO (KYTX) - An Alto landowner spent the weekend in a dispute with TransCanada, but it wasn't about the pipeline or the tar sands that will soon run through it. It was about livestock.
TransCanada crews and the contractors they hired dug a ditch in Jimmy Lanham's neighbor's land to lay pipe. Lanham's neighbor regularly lets him run cattle on that land, and within the last month, two of Lanham's cows ended up stuck in that ditch. One died. The second was rescued Sunday just in time.
Lanham breathed a sigh of relief Sunday after the cow, submerged in feet of thick mud, was pulled to safety and reunited with her calf.
Four years ago, Lanham began negotiating with TransCanada about running pipeline through his land. While Lanham's cows got to the ditch through his neighbors land, Lanham's land runs along the ditch too.
"This is a low place," he said, "and I asked the contractor to bevel that ditch in case a cow got in there, that they could walk out. He said, 'Oh that's no problem we've never had a cow in a ditch.'"
Until a month ago.
Lanham said, "Three days later we came back and here is a drowned cow floating in the ditch. The contractor and TransCanada said, 'We're not paying for the cow.'"
After some argument, TransCanada decided to pay Lanham $3,000 for the cow.
"Then they were in here within 30 minutes building fences," Lanham said.
Saturday morning, crews took down those fences to add mud to the ditch to cover the pipe.
Lanham says, "They didn't put the fence back. Well we're checking cattle [Sunday] and here's another one, which is still alive."
As the mother cow struggled in the mud, Lanham says he called TransCanada for help.
"We've made phone calls from Arkansas to Tyler and nobody will give us any help."
He and some neighbors were able to tow her out of the mud. Her calf was clearly the happiest about the rescue
TransCanada has responded with a statement saying: "TransCanada is concerned about safety. TransCanada prizes its landowner relations. We have relationships with more than 60,000 landowners in North America, and our goal is always to treat them fairly and with respect. Livestock should not be on a construction right of way. We are in contact with the landowner and the tenant regarding this issue, and we are working with them to assure livestock is kept safe."
We asked TransCanada spokespeople what they meant by "livestock should not be in the right of way." They tell us, the cows are not allowed in the area paid for by the company to do construction, also called the right of way.
The response was: "Just not on the right of way during construction. The same sensible safety precaution applies to people (with the exception of authorized, trained personnel)."
Monday, Lanham and said crews were helpful, and he's glad the situation has been taken care of. He just hopes for better communication with the company in the future.