Up and down the mid-Willamette Valley, along country roads and across grass seed fields, crews have been digging or boring into the ground to bury long sections of 12-inch diameter steel pipe. You can see part of the work in progress off Walnut Drive and Riverside Drive south of Albany as well as along Corvallis Road south of Independence.
It’s all part of a multimillion-dollar project by Northwest Natural, the regional gas company, to increase its capacity to serve customers. The work began last year on a segment of new pipeline to serve Corvallis. This year it has continued on a segment east of Riverside Drive.
Company press releases say the pipelines are to be finished this year, and the cost was estimated at upwards of $40 million. In a rate decision in the fall of 2012, the Public Utility Commission disallowed about $22 million in expenses for two segments of the overall project in Polk County, meaning those costs cannot be charged to ratepayers.
On fields where the pipeline is being buried, contractors marked the site boundaries with orange sheeting. The company said it was to keep material from spilling into the fields, but looking at one of the sites, I saw no sign of anything that might be spilled. I don’t know what those miles of orange plastic cost, but no matter how minor in the overall scheme of things, if it weren’t required by some regulation, this is one expense that might well be saved. (hh)