Meeting offers latest on pipeline

A meeting on March 30 at the Medford main library opposing the proposed 235-mile Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline was well attended by residents of the Upper Rogue, including Bob and Gail Barker from Shady Cove. Their  property will be the site for horizontal directional drilling under the Rogue River and Barker told the audience what it is like to live with the threat of the pipeline and possible eminent domain hanging over their heads.

The meeting organized by Rogue Riverkeeper, Rogue Group Sierra Club and Friends of Living Oregon Waters updated the crowd on where opponents of the 36-inch pipeline are legally, environmental impacts and what can be done to stop the pipeline. The speakers painted an ominous picture of impacts to fish, waterways, watersheds and the economy if the pipeline is constructed by Pacific Connector and Williams Pipeline Companies.

The pipeline that will carry one billion cubic feet of gas with 1,440 pounds of pressure per square inch daily to California was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2009. Not pleased with the decision, opponents and the State of Oregon requested a rehearing. Lesley Adams, one of 200 Riverkeepers in the world, explained “A rehearing is legal jargon for— we don’t like your decision and you had better reconsider or we will file a lawsuit.” The petition was filed in January and so far there is no decision from FERC on the rehearing which puts the potential lawsuit on hold.

The project if completed, said Adams, would impact Coos Bay and the Coquille, Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath Basins. It would cross 379 rivers and streams; require clear-cutting of 270 acres of remaining old growth forests on public lands; and locally cross 19 fifth-field watersheds including Rogue River/Shady Cove, Big Butte and Little Butte Creeks in the Rogue Basin.

Eleven public drinking water source areas, including the watersheds serving the Medford Water Commission and private wells would be crossed by the pipeline, added Adams. With low rainfall and shortages of water, a concern is the 58-million gallons of water needed for hydrostatic testing of the pipeline. Where will the water come from and where will the water, now possibly contaminated, be released?

The Upper Rogue and its tributaries are home to anadromous fish species including Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey. Five streams in the Rogue Basin are already listed as water quality impaired on the Clean Water Act 303(d). The affected streams are West Fork Trail Creek, Lick Creek, Salt Creek, North and South Forks of Little Butte Creek, said Adams. The process could warm the water, creating unhealthy conditions for spawning beds of fish.

Also of concern is the proposed drilling under the Rogue River for 3,000 feet of pipeline that would be pulled through the opening. Fraq-outs (leaks) of the lubricant, Bentonite Clay, could pollute the river and endanger already meager runs of salmon and other wildlife. This in turn would not only affect the environment but possibly tourism and the local economy. If drilling under the river is unsuccessful, after the third try, an open wet cut would be implemented to get the pipeline across, said speaker and affected landowner, Barker, whose property is the drilling site.

About 80 miles of the pipeline would cross public lands and 150 miles would cross private land. Barker asked rhetorically, “Why should we suffer the environmental damage from the pipeline that is primarily serving California?” Oregon would receive less than one percent of the gas and Barker pointed out the United States has over 100-years of natural gas supplies.

With the abundance of natural gas in our own country and Canada, opponents such as Adams are concerned the pipeline could be used to export gas overseas. What was considered paranoia a few years ago is today garnering a second look.

Barker talked about his two-acres that are forested with oak, pine and cedar trees. A ninety foot swath of denuded land would hugely impact the property he bought in 2004. It would not grow back in his lifetime, he reflected. And the luck of the draw put him in the east side of the river—the drill side.

Barker knows if he does not agree to sell the land, it will be taken by eminent domain because FERC turns the power over to the pipeline companies. “At the end of the day, there is no choice,” said a resigned Barker.

Can the LNG pipeline be stopped? Dan Serres of FLOW told the audience their voice matters and the louder they become, the less likely southern Oregon is to become the weak spot on the West Coast. Pipeline companies have scouted Oregon, California, Washington, Canada and Mexico looking for a spot to shunt this gas into the California market. Oregon should not be the place of least resistance,” he emphasized.

Offering a practical solution, Serres said the Department of State Lands is reviewing applications of leases on state lands for both the terminal and the pipeline. He urged those present to immediately contact the parties that have the power to stop the pipeline. Write and call Governor Kulongski, Michael Carrier the Governor’s Natural Resources Policy Director and Louise Solliday, DSL Director.

Oregon has all the power it needs to stop these projects. With the pipeline crossing the Rogue River and violating the Clean Water Act, “It’s a no brainer. We need to give the agencies the backbone to do the right thing,” Serres stressed.

Contact information for the governor is (503)378-4582 or on website (Oregon.gov). Michael Carrier is (503)986-6525 or Michael.carrier@state.or.us; Louise Solliday (503)986-5224 or louise.c.solliday@state.or.us.By

 

By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent

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