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"Gas pipeline may be behind the timesA meeting last week dealt with a proposal to build a natural gas pipeline across Whidbey Island, entering at at Sandy Hook and exiting at Maxwelton.The meeting featured representatives from two companies that are competing for the right to sell natural gas to South Whidbey residents through a pipeline built by another company. The project is not imminent. It appears that the required federal and state permits are a year away from being completed, let along granted. So islanders will likely have years to mull this idea over before it threatens to becomes reality.The pipeline builder, Westcoast Energy, hopes to bring a line from Canada down the I-5 corridor and west to the Kitsap peninsula via Whidbey Island. Providing gas locally would be up to another vendor, either Cascade Natural Gas or Puget Sound Energy. South Whidbey residents are experienced only with Puget Sound Energy, our long-time supplier of electricity. Based on their track record, we perhaps can expect gas lines suspended from poles (it's cheaper than going underground); service contracted out through a crew based in Portland, Ore.; and a toll-free recorded message to call if there's an explosion. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.As much as we've expressed frustration with Puget Sound Energy, we can't say we're anxious to see a major gas line installation project along the highways and byways of Whidbey Island. The environmental concerns are obvious. More interesting is the next generation of electrical generation being tested. Individual fuel cells could supply homes with electricity without wiring the entire island, and islanders would be freed from depending on huge off-island corporations for their power needs.Fuel cells are said to be a few years away from widespread use, but so too is the natural gas pipeline. Gas lines are old technology. It would behoove island residents concerned about the environment to wait for the new technology to emerge.South Whidbey shows its community spiritSouth Whidbey residents showed they really care last week when they supported the school district's operation and maintenance levy by an overwhelming 72 percent. Voters seemed embarrassed, perhaps, that the levy failed the first time around so they made up for it with renewed enthusiasm for the schools.Voters also passed the Parks & Recreation District bond issue to purchase 30 acres and improve it with ballfields and trails. The margin was 61 percent, also impressive for something that no one would say is as crucial as education.The parks victory was a vote of confidence in the Parks District's board of directors and in all that they have accomplished in the past. The additional 30 acres comes at a nominal charge to property owners. When the project is complete we will look back at this purchase as one of the best buys ever to assure adequate recreational facilities on South Whidbey.Voters here started the new millennium by taking care of the educational and recreational needs of the future. This spirit of optimism is one of the reasons that life on South Whidbey is so rewarding."

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