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Front Page » December 2, 2003 » Opinion » Letter to the Editor: Clear up the story
Published 3,893 days ago

Letter to the Editor: Clear up the story


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By DUANE ZAVADIL
Director, Environment, Health and Safety
Bill Barrett Corporation

Editor:

We hope all parties attending the Nine Mile Canyon field trip earlier this month were as encouraged as we were with the discussions about the opportunities possible through our potential long-term presence in your community. It was a good forum for hearing about concerns and questions from local residents.

You may have read with concern the recent stories and editorials in the Salt Lake Tribune regarding alleged damage to "archeological resources" occurring during repair of our pipeline. The paper repeatedly implied that BBC had acted without authorization and that archeological resources were being disregarded by both the BLM and BBC.

The issue stems from the fact that the existing 30-year old gas lines located adjacent to Nine Mile Canyon Road have repeatedly burst at less than 20 percent of their rated pressure. In addition to inadequate capacity, we were very concerned that the gas lines constituted a real safety hazard, prompting us to fix the line as soon as possible. BBC applied for upgrades of this and other gas lines as early as February of this year. The original application for this line was to replace the existing 4-inch line with a larger diameter, higher pressure'rated line to be laid on the surface in the same place as existing lines. We are using existing rights-of-way, meaning no applications for additional rights of way are required.

Although not required by the right-of-way, BBC committed to minimum disturbance of the surface in its replacement of the lines, meaning we would avoid grading except as necessary to access the area. BLM approved the line maintenance.

In the disturbed area referred to by other newspaper accounts, a road was built approximately 30 years ago in order to build the original line. When constructed, this road required a three foot cut and fill.

The news articles incorrectly refer to blading or bulldozing of the area- because there was never a bulldozer on location an3jime during the entire project, the claim is simply false. The area referenced in the articles clearly was neither bladed or bulldozed, yet was obviously disturbed in the past, most likely countless times, first through road construction and then through repeated historical use of the road.

To assist long-term project planning, BBC had retained an archeologist to survey the entire line. The potential hearth was identified several weeks after the project was completed. The preliminary findings were provided to the BLM soon after which the sensationalized articles began to appear in several papers.

BLM completed their field investigation of the situation on October 30, 2003, in effect exonerating BBC. They have communicated that they will not be pursuing legal action and that our actions were in fact authorized. The situation with the potential archeological site is being treated as a potential discovery rather than an unauthorized disturbance of a known site as implied by some. BBC has agreed to fund the further investigation of the site to determine if in fact an archeological resource is present and, if so, what steps are necessary to remove it from harm's way. As you might have guessed based on earlier treatment in the press, BLM's conclusion that our activities were authorized has not been publicized by those media outlets that earlier rushed to judge the company complicit in damaging an artifact.

BBC replaced nearly four miles of pipeline during the maintenance activity at a cost of over $250,000. Unfortunately, this investment will be obsolete upon construction of the originally proposed, and still necessary, line beneath Nine Mile Canyon road. On all but a few hundred feet of the repairs, it is scarcely possible to tell the pipeline has been replaced. Rather than clearing vegetation as allowed under the grant for the right-of-way, we were able to travel on existing roads and pluck the old line out of the brush with a long boom and replace the new line the same way. On those few hundred feet where the pipeline was buried under roads or drainages, slightly greater disturbance was necessary to excavate the old line and replace it. The care taken is unprecedented and we are quite proud with the final results.

BBC will continue to use all necessary measures to protect the archeological resources in Nine Mile Canyon. We will also demonstrate that the natural gas resources in the area can be developed without negatively impacting the other important values in the area. Thank you for your interest in the facts.


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