Cascade proposes Whidbey pipeline

"After having their taste for natural gas whetted last fall, South Whidbey gas boosters may soon see concrete pipeline plans out of an Oak Harbor company looking to supply Port Townsend with energy.If its preliminary plans work out, Cascade Natural Gas will deliver gas to Port Townsend, Langley, and possibly Coupeville customers by 2004. Will Odell, Cascade's director of distribution engineering, said Friday that his company is partnering with Vancouver, B.C.'s Westcoast Energy to bring the pipeline through Whatcom and Skagit counties, through Marysville, then across Whidbey Island. Last fall, Quantum Dynamics, a New Mexico natural gas company, presented its plans to research Whidbey Island as a site for a natural gas pipeline and a co-generation electric plant. Representatives appeared before the Langley and Coupeville city councils and the Island County Commissioners. However, the company has yet to finish a market analysis of the island's energy market.During a meeting this week with Port Townsend and Jefferson County officials, Odell produced a map on which the pipeline is shown running underwater across Saratoga Passage, coming ashore near Langley, then leaving the island north of Mutiny Bay on its way to Port Townsend.Odell said Friday the pipeline is still in the early planning stages, so details may change.Cascade has yet to present its pipeline plans to Island County or Langley officials. When it does, Odell said he expects some members of the public to criticize the project in light of last year's pipeline disaster in Bellingham. However, he characterized Cascade's project as much safer, since the line would carry only natural gas, not the liquid petroleum products that incinerated a portion of Whatcom Creek in Bellingham and killed two boys and a young fisherman.Right away, they're very different products moving through the line, Odell said. We're very proud of the safety record Cascade has.Langley Mayor pro-tem Neil Colburn said the first he heard of Cascade's plans was on the whatnext e-mail list Friday morning. He said Langley is prepared if the company chooses to bring a pipeline ashore in the city. As a member of the city's Shoreline Master Plan committee, Colburn has worked directly on procedures the city would follow if a pipeline were proposed.Langley's City Council has been in the mood to hear about natural gas since hearing Quantum Dynamics' presentation in the fall.Quantum Dynamics saw the market, Colburn said.Odell said Cascade will spend this year gathering preliminary information for its proposed pipeline project. In 2001, the company will do an economic analysis of the island energy market. Pipeline construction could begin in 2003.Odell said he has not yet scheduled meetings with Island County and Langley officials to present Cascade's pipeline plans."

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