A proposed natural gas pipeline in Dakota County has gotten the go-ahead to cross several wetlands in Eagan and Rosemount.

The nearly 8-mile, 20-inch pipeline, a project of Nebraska-based Northern Natural Gas, is part of an effort to convert Xcel Energy’s Black Dog Power Plant in Burnsville to natural gas from coal. The planned route will follow an existing easement that Northern Natural Gas is using for another pipeline.

The pipeline may cross up to 11 wetlands in Rosemount and Eagan. Most of the line will be installed using an underground boring method that’s less disruptive than digging from above. It’s unlikely that the wetlands in the pipeline’s path will be affected long-term, according to Brian Watson, district manager for the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Based on what they’re proposing … they will only be temporary impacts and no replacements required,” Watson said.

Rosemount and Eagan both signed off Sept. 6 on a Northern Natural Gas request to temporarily affect the wetlands, following approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The disruption is expected to last only through the construction process; per the agreement, the impacts can last no more than 180 consecutive days.

The pipeline has been controversial among locals concerned about the potential environmental impact. As planned, it will cut through Lebanon Hills Regional Park’s “preserve zone” — an area of high ecological diversity — and affect more than 400 landowners.

Holly Jenkins, an Eagan resident who founded the nonprofit Wilderness in the City, has been among the pipeline’s most vocal critics. She is also a candidate for county commissioner, running in part to advocate for environmental causes.

“Any impact to wetlands can be concerning,” Jenkins said. “You just really, really have to have every precaution in place.”

Pipeline construction is slated to begin in spring 2017, pending approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.