Naturalgas pipelineproposed for Whatcom county

Published on Thu, May 20, 2004 by rent Cole

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Natural gas pipeline
proposed for Whatcom county

By Brent Cole

A planned natural gas pipeline, built by the Williams Company and operated by B.C. Hydro, will travel through San Juan and Whatcom counties and could be operational by October 2005, according to the Williams Company. When the pipeline is functional, it will be used to get natural gas to Vancouver Island and potentially Whatcom County.
The pipeline, though, is of great concern to the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE).

“There are a bunch of environmental concerns with both the construction activity and the impact on marine life,” stated Richard Grout, manager of the Bellingham DOE office. “Things like Dungeness crabs, which are migratory, are a concern.”

Last month, the Georgia Strait Project overcame a potential problem when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave the project the green light, citing two missed deadlines by the DOE. The FERC stated the DOE missed the deadline to certify the project according to the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act and Section 401 Water Quality Certification. By missing the deadline, the DOE has lost the ability to object to the project.

The DOE is disputing the FERC’s decision, stating that the deadlines were different than the FERC understood them to be. Officials say they have an agreement, signed by the Williams Company officials that extended the deadline from March 1 to May 28.

The FERC’s ruling would nullify any forthcoming decisions on the pipeline’s shoreline permits by both Whatcom and San Juan counties. Prior to the ruling, the DOE objections could have halted the entire project.

The DOE will appeal the FERC’s decision according to Grout.
If the Williams Company and B.C. Hydro overcome the potential appeals, they still must to get the approval from the B.C. government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps of engineers still might require permits at the state and local levels, therefore giving Whatcom and San Juan counties another avenue to voice their concerns about the pipeline.

The first part of the pipeline will be 20-inches in diameter and transport natural gas from Sumas to an area near Cherry Point. The approximate 32-mile would pass near the communities of Sumas, Lynden, and Ferndale.

Approximately a mile from where the pipeline enters the water, the pipe’s diameter will be reduced for the remainder of the route to 16 inches at a compressor station in the Cherry Point area. From there the pipeline will travel 41.5 miles (67 km) underwater across the strait. The pipe will come ashore on Vancouver Island between Cowichan Bay and Mill Bay and will travel inland approximately 10 miles to connect with an existing Terasen Gas transmission system just west of the north end of Shawnigan Lake. The total length of the pipeline in both the US and Canada will be 84.5 miles.