ELSIE — A 36-inch diameter natural gas pipeline could be running underneath Patrick Dooney’s mailbox someday.

A stone’s throw away from the family home near Elsie, the steel pipeline would bring natural gas from the Williams Northwest Pipeline in Woodland, Wash., to an export terminal in Warrenton to be liquefied and shipped overseas.

Dooney and his siblings don’t want the 86-mile pipeline to happen.

On Sunday, Dooney, his brother John and Daniel Serres, conservation director with Columbia Riverkeeper, led a tour of land proposed for pipeline use. A group of approximately 20 people came to learn more about possible impacts to Clatsop County resources and landowners.

Oregon LNG and the Oregon Pipeline Company, two affiliated companies seeking to install the pipeline, have said that the project would create nearly 3,000 jobs for the four-year construction phase and 1,550 direct or indirect jobs for years to come. They’ve also said that landowners would receive some form of compensation for easements and that the pipeline would be constructed with stringent standards.

Groups such as Columbia Riverkeeper and those opposed to the project have said that risks to the environment are too great. Property owners are concerned about what will happen to their land and what could happen.

Diane and George Jette of Elsie said they’ve been fighting pipeline proposals in the area since Bradwood Landing was proposed nearly 10 years ago. The former project proposal would have brought the pipeline right by their log cabin, George Jette said.

“We’ve learned so much now about how big companies like this operate,” said Diane Jette. The couple moved to the area in 1998 and own five acres with pastureland, using the Nehalem River to fill their water tanks.

“They just don’t think there can be anybody to muster up enough fight to stop them,” she said. “What they’re going to find out is that they’re wrong.”

The Jettes joined the group Sunday and were concerned with how a fire might be dealt with. George Jette is a volunteer with the Elsie-Vinemaple Rural Fire Protection District and said the pipeline falls within its boundaries. The volunteer firefighters would be the first responders if a fire occurred from the pipeline, he said.

“We have no training in it and we’re ill-equipped and they aren’t willing to be responsible for any of that,” he said.

Diane Jette said that a few of their neighbors believe the company will provide money to fight fires in case there are any, but said she’s skeptical.

“It doesn’t look like that’s the case,” she said. “If they did, it wouldn’t be enough. We would need more and more water tenders.”

To begin the tour, the group caravanned to a vantage point overlooking land belonging to the Dooney family. A 100-by-100-foot portion of the land would be used for a rectifier station by Oregon LNG. Serres explained to the group that the station, about as large as a good-sized house, would be used to protect the pipeline from corrosion with an electric current.

During construction, the Dooney’s would lose a 100-foot-wide strip going through their property. The land is used for small logging operations. Oregon LNG would end up having a permanent 50-foot-wide easement on their property.

“They would clearcut that strip in one season and come back the next season to install the pipeline in different segments,” Serres said.

In June, Oregon LNG filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to construct and operate the proposed pipeline with an export terminal in Warrenton with import capabilities. The location was originally proposed for importing natural gas.

On July 2, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, submitted comments to FERC indicating that the time period allotted for submitting comments or interventions was not long enough to “constitute adequate notice to the public of an application amendment that substantially changes the proposed Oregon LNG terminal and associated pipeline.”

The chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee requested that the time period for comments be extended from July 11 to Aug. 12.

FERC will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement for the revised project. Once it does that, Serres said it can give the company the right to imminent domain. Landowners would receive 15 to 40 percent of estimated land value for the easements, he said.

Patrick Dooney, who is retired from Portland Fire and Rescue, lives at the family home off Oregon Highway 103. His parents bought the property in the late 1950s. They originally raised cattle on the pasturelands, but it’s been logged and replanted for 40 years, John Dooney said, with three generations having lived there over the years. The proposed pipeline would pass underneath a spring that is the sole water source for the property, a concern of the Dooneys.

The group also toured property belonging to the Meeker-McCluer family, which borders the Nehalem River directly south of Dooney property.

With a steep hill on the south side, the river poses a challenge to construction. Oregon LNG would use a horizontal directional drill to bore underneath the river from an elevated position.

Serres said the 1,700-foot drill would have to go a dozen feet below the bottom of the Nehalem River.

“At 36 inches, a horizontal directional drill is no small feat,” Serres said. “There’s a lot of concern about what would happen in the watershed if that drill failed.”

The drillers will have to account for bedrock underneath the river, he said. A fear is that the drill could hit rock and find a less resistant path upward, coming through the river-bottom releasing drilling fluid into the watershed.

On a field belonging to the Meeker-McCluer family, parts of the pipeline would be welded together and then pulled underneath the river to the other side, Serres said.

Pandyce Meeker-McCluer said her hand-dug well is 25 feet below the ground. “They want to pass right through it, or very close to it,” she said.

It is the only water source she has, although she gets some water directly from the river for watering and livestock. “Outside of that, my entire source of water is from that well,” she said.

In addition to being a source for water, the river is spawning ground for coho salmon, Meeker-McCluer said, and is home to cutthroat trout as well.

While FERC reviews the current project proposal, the Clatsop Couny Commissioners wait to make their final decision on a land use application for the project. County commissioners denied the application after former commissioners approved Oregon LNG’s proposal. The issue was taken as high as the Oregon Supreme Court, which did not review the case, reverting to a lower court ruling that the county did have the authority to make the reversal.

Although Oregon?LNG leaders have stated they do not need local approval, state and local government are responsible for making land use decisions for the project.

FERC will also be reviewing the expansion project of the Williams Pipeline in Washington as an interrelated project.

   

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