Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Williams plans Blue Bridge Pipeline in Columbia River Gorge

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold public meetings in August on a proposed 119-mile natural gas pipeline that would run mostly parallel to an existing pipeline along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.
Williams Northwest Pipeline says the Blue Bridge Pipeline is needed to meet increased demand for natural gas in western Washington markets.
"One of our major customers, Puget Sound Energy, was the driving force behind the project," said Michele Swaner, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City-based pipeline company.
Williams Northwest recently scaled back the size of the project at Puget Sound Energy's request after the utility cited changing market conditions, she said.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued notice of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the project.
At hearings Aug. 11 in Goldendale and Aug. 12 in Stevenson, affected landowners, government agencies, Native American tribes, environmental groups and other interested parties will be invited to comment on what issues the EIS should address.
Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said an earlier version of the pipeline proposal raised significant environmental concerns, including the possibility that the national scenic area would be marred by "a permanent linear clear-cut." Lang said he had not seen the details of the scaled-back project.
"We'll be reviewing the project to make sure it doesn't harm the scenic beauty of the Gorge, fish and wildlife habitat or recreation use," he said.
The Blue Bridge Pipeline would deliver natural gas from the Rocky Mountains along a route that crosses northeast Oregon and enters Washington at the small town of Plymouth. It would consist of six sections that would parallel the existing Williams pipeline through Benton, Klickitat and Skamania counties for about 74 percent of its length. It would connect with the north-south Williams pipeline at

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