This writer has received several questions about the gas pipline project crossing the outskirts of Yelm. The Tacoma News Tribune carried a front page story on August 10th about this issue:
“Following a history of ruptures and explosions, a private company is replacing a corroded, 50-year-old natural gas pipeline that snakes through Western Washington. It had no choice. Three years ago, after ruptures near Lake Tapps and the Lewis County town of Toledo, the federal government ordered that the 268-mile line close by this December. ‘The feds lost confidence in the pipelines ability to continue operation,’ said Alan Rathbun, a pipeline safety director for the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission. The pipelines owner, Williams Northwest Pipeline of Salt Lake City, is in the process of abandoning the line made of 26-inch pipes that run from Canada to Oregon. The company is spending $330 million to replace it with 80 miles of strategically placed 36-inch pipes. The new piping will combine with a second Williams pipe system to transport all of the natural gas used in Western Washington. One 22.5-mile segment of the new piping crosses the Nisqually River through Pierce and Thurston counties, upstream from the town of McKenna. Last week, backhoes forded the water, digging a trench about 14 feet deep across the 160-foot riverbed. The process, known as open cutting, removed sopping tons of cobbled rock in order to bury a U-shaped piece of pipe. The digging despoiled sediment and could change the ecology of the river…But worry about the digs ecological impact brought together federal, state and county regulatory agencies to work with Williams. Groups like the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are hovering over the project to make sure damage to the environment is minimized. Months of research provided a window of time in which the salmon would be least affected. The most damaging part of the dig was done within a day. Research also discovered that the amount of sediment disturbed would be no worse than a strong storm or spring defrost endurable disruptions. Sediment flow was monitored at various spots along the river during the dig. Williams says everything went according to plan…n top of these precautions, Williams is giving back to the land its destroying.
$550,000 FOR CONSERVATION
When a construction project cant avoid disturbing a wetland, state and federal law requires environmental mitigation, or a payout for damages. Williams agreed to give $550,000 to the Nisqually Tribe to be used to preserve and maintain the Nisqually River watershed. Regulatory agencies said that was suitable compensation. ‘We think we are getting a very good tradeoff here,’ said Sandy Howard, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Ecology. ‘The whole story here is: a trade between a short-term harm to the environment for a long-term environmental gain.’ A tribal official said the money will be held in a fund until worthwhile projects are approved. ‘Weve been doing comprehensive studies on all kinds of streams, looking for mitigation projects,’ said George Walter, a spokesman for the Nisqually Tribe. The Nisqually have a history of caring for the basin. Some of their work includes protecting endangered salmon species, removing dikes and restoring estuary habitats and acquiring shoreline property for permanent protection.”