Have you noticed all that bright orange plastic that’s been strung through the fields along Independence Highway? Around here, orange usually signifies Oregon State’s Beavers. But it turns out the erosion barrier is merely a sign that Northwest Natural is starting the latest phase of its gas pipeline expansion program in the Willamette Valley.
On Tuesday afternoon, near the intersection of Palestine Road and Independence, a crew was finishing up a staging area for the pipeline project. And near the intersection with Ryals Avenue, a sign notified motorists of a forthcoming weeklong closure of a segment of Independence Highway itself.
I asked Rick Osborn, the Benton County public information officer, what the county knew about this work. He checked with Laurie Starha in the Public Works Department and Greg Verret in Community Development and then got back to me with this report:
“I found out that Northwest Natural is installing a pipeline along Independence Highway over the next few months, and they have installed construction fencing along their project locations. Much of the work is on private property, but the county did issue permits for work that will be completed in the right of way.
“Also, Northwest Natural obtained a floodplain permit for the portion of the project that is within the regulatory floodplain. Additionally, there is some archaeological work taking place, under authorization from the State Historic Preservation Office.”
Last year, the gas company built long sections of pipeline in Polk, Benton and Linn counties, all part of an overall project to expand its capacity to serve this part of the state, especially the Corvallis area and Philomath. According to one of the men at the work site Tuesday, this latest leg will complete a line that goes from Rickreall to Highway 20. And signs say the work will take from June till November. (hh)