Opponents of a giant interstate natural-gas pipeline have had their worst nightmares come true.
The Forest Service announced it will allow not one but two pipelines through 5 1/2 miles of forest land above Bountiful, land that includes Mueller Park, a popular picnic and hiking area."Yes, we do believe that two pipelines can be constructed without significantly harming the environment," said Dick Kline, public affairs officer for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Dave Brown, vice president of the Bountiful Hills Residents and Concerned Citizens Association, said his group is disappointed with the Forest Service's decision. "I don't think we are in any way surprised. As the (pipeline) proposal has developed, we have seen one instance after another where the interests and welfare of Kern River and WyCal have been satisfied over those of the public."
Last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted certificates to two competing pipeline companies, Kern River Gas Transmission and WyCal Pipeline Co., to construct 800-mile lines that would carry Wyoming gas to assorted markets in southern California. FERC left it to market forces to determine if one or two pipelines would be built.
The authorized route is known as the "Wasatch Variation" and crosses the mountains above Bountiful before heading through western Salt Lake County and then southwest through Utah and Nevada. Because this route crosses heavily populated areas, the Wasatch Fault and Mueller Park, it has been opposed by community groups and governments in Davis and Salt Lake counties.
Earlier this year, the Forest Service expressed displeasure upon learning that two pipelines could cross forest land.
But Wasatch-Cache Supervisor Susan Giannettino, who became supervisor in April, decided this week that two pipelines can be built safely and with little impact on the environment.To minimize the environmental impact, however, the lines must be built concurrently and by the same contractor. And Giannettino's decision makes it clear that this is a one-time variance to the forest plan and that "the right-of-way will not be established as a utility corridor."
In addition, Giannettino said, the Forest Service will organize a "working group" of citizens and community leaders "to ensure that community values are represented."
One of the recent concerns not addressed in the original Environmental Impact Statement was the trust deed of George Mueller, who signed 1,000 acres of mountain land over to the Forest Service in 1940. Brown said he believes the pipeline violates the restrictive covenants in the deed.
Said Giannettino, "I realize that the Mueller Park parcel is an important haven for local residents but I believe it can still be protected to meet the intent of the restrictive covenants found in the deed. The Muellers intended the land to be used for watersheds, public recreation and wildlife and bird habitat purposes; these uses will still be dominant after the pipeline is constructed and the land reclaimed."