Pipeline construction moves forward
Published 7:58 pm Saturday, March 3, 2018
The two-year construction process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline began this January, and the construction of most of the Suffolk portion of the pipeline will begin in 2019.
“This is a 600-mile project and two-year construction process,” spokesman Aaron Ruby said. “Roughly speaking, we have divided into two different portions. Roughly half of the project will be completed this year, and the second half will be completed in 2019.”
Construction will be broken up into smaller, more manageable sections called spreads. There are roughly 16 or 17 different spreads across the 600-mile pipeline.
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“Spreads can be anywhere from 30 to 80 miles long, depending on the terrain. The spreads are worked on by independent construction units and operated independently. We don’t build the pipeline in a linear fashion,” Ruby said.
The pre-construction phase has already begun. The pipeline has been approved to do tree and vegetation clearing to prepare the right of way to begin full construction in early spring.
The vegetation clearing is currently operating on foot with handheld equipment. They don’t currently have federal permission to do mechanized tree clearing. This is why it is considered pre-construction.
The right of way during the construction process is 75 feet wide, but once construction has completed, it will shrink to 50 feet wide for maintenance of the pipeline. The easement agreements with property owners don’t allow for access to the entire property.
Property owners will have full access to their land after construction completes. The pipeline will be 3 to 5 feet underground, and the landowner can use the land as they have before.
Construction has only started on properties where they have reached easement agreements. Roughly 80 percent of landowners have reached agreements, Ruby said. The remaining property owners have been going through the courts to reach easement agreements.
“Every landowner is fairly compensated for use of their land. If we reach a mutual agreement, it’s negotiated, and in cases through the courts, the court determines their compensation,” Ruby said. “Since early December, we have filed roughly 125 cases seeking access to begin work on these properties. The 125 cases span over all three states the pipeline touches.”
There are a handful of properties where the owner is not identified and there are no documents available to prove ownership. For these cases, they have to post a public notice in a newspaper in hopes that an heir to the property will claim the property.
At least one such public notice has been posted in the Suffolk News-Herald. It ran on Feb. 22 and lists 24 potential heirs and unknown heirs of 10 other people, one of which went by three names, illustrating the complications of such cases.
“The law requires we publicly notice so that someone will see. It’s rare,” Ruby said.