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Natural gas pipeline to serve some in Ferrisburgh, Waltham

FERRISBURGH — Construction will begin soon on the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline extension that will serve Vergennes and run about three miles along Plank Road from a new New Haven distribution station to Route 7 and from there to the city, according to company officials.
Along the south side of Plank Road, the pipeline extension will pass through parts of Ferrisburgh and Waltham as well as New Haven, and it could serve homes in those towns, said Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark late last week.
The extension is part of the company’s larger Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, which is intended to bring the fuel to Addison and Rutland counties. The company has also proposed running a pipeline under Lake Champlain to International Paper in Ticonderoga, a plan that has encountered opposition (see story on Page 1). Some property owners in Monkton and Middlebury have also opposed the pipeline.
Company officials have been working to obtain the rights of way necessary to run the Vergennes pipeline extension along Plank Road. Vermont Gas representatives told the Ferrisburgh selectboard last week the coated steel, hand-welded pipeline would be buried about three feet deep as close to Plank Road’s traveled surface as possible.
They also said they would coordinate with Ferrisburgh’s highway crews to “avoid taking out trees” as much as possible during the pipeline construction process. The main thrust of Phase I of the project is a pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury with an extension to Vergennes. Company officials said installation of the Vergennes extension along Plank Road should start in June and its target completion date is August 2015.
Vermont Gas official Charlie Pughe told the Ferrisburgh selectboard and about a dozen residents last Tuesday that natural gas safety concerns are minimal.
“We believe that gas from our pipeline is the safest fuel you can use of that type,” Pughe said.
Wark on Friday provided an estimate for the number of homeowners in Ferrisburgh, New Haven and Waltham who would automatically qualify to tap onto the pipeline.
“We believe there is a potential for 46 addresses along the route to Vergennes,” he said.
Vermont Gas will pay for at least 100 feet of pipe to a home on Plank Road, and homes on the route further from the road could tap on at the owners’ expense for 100-plus feet, he said.
“We would serve customers that are 100 feet from that line along that road,” Wark said.
Wark said there could be some exceptions where Vermont Gas would help pay for longer extensions, and he also noted that the company has programs to help subsidize conversions of heating systems to natural gas, which is now less expensive than other fossil fuels.
“There are programs to help with the conversion,” he said.
Another company initiative helps homeowners buy new high-efficiency natural gas heating systems, Wark said.
“If people are looking to upgrade to more efficient heating systems, we would help them with the incremental cost of that upgrade,” he said.
Wark could not on Thursday say whether building the Plank Road extension would require crossing any private land or purchasing any private property or easements, nor could he provide details about the pipeline’s path to Vergennes from the intersection of Plank Road and Route 7.
Meanwhile, Vermont Gas last week announced that it had signed its first construction contract for Phase I of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The South Burlington-based gas company signed a multi-million-dollar agreement with Engineers Construction Inc. of Williston to perform the horizontal directional drilling for the pipeline.
Vermont Gas describes horizontal directional drilling as a trenchless pipeline installation method that will be used in more than 17 locations along 41 miles of the Phase 1 route of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The equipment used in the directional drilling process is new and allows ECI to bore underneath environmentally and archeologically sensitive areas, thus minimizing impacts.
Wark said contracts for construction of the majority of the Phase I pipeline have yet to finalized.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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