REX Pipeline construction set for 2008

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Jason Inglert, of A+ Windows and Doors, peers down from atop the Putnam County Courthouse Monday morning as strands of Christmas lights are hung for the holiday season. Mainstreet Greencastle's Mike Nees helped on the roof while other workers assisted from the ground below. Mayor Nancy Michael, along with students from DePauw, replaced burned out bulbs during the weekend. The Greencastle Street Department will attach the strands of colored lights to buildings around the square beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday. Motorists are asked to be cautious.

Officials with the company seeking to cross Putnam County with a natural gas pipeline say the project is on target for construction in the spring of 2008.

Brett Schutt, with Rockies Express Pipeline (REX), made a first-time appearance before the Putnam County Commissioners Monday night where he said the company is waiting on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to determine potential environmental concerns with the project.

The 1,663-mile underground pipe is supposed to run from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to eastern Ohio. The eastern section, which will cross the Indiana counties of Vermillion, Parke, Putnam, Hendricks, Morgan, Johnson, Shelby, Decatur and Franklin, is estimated at 622 miles long and is estimated for completion in early 2009.

Schutt said the next step is to officially file with the Energy Commission for permission to begin the project, something that officials hope to do in April. Currently survey crews are moving about the northern part of the county staking out the proposed route of the pipeline. Their work was evidenced recently by wooden stakes that were placed on both side of CR 25 West (the Shortcut Road) just south of U.S. 36.

Schutt told the commissioners that REX has obtained permission to survey from about 90 percent of Putnam County residents affected by the project. He promised the company would maintain a good relationship with those landowners as they go about doing their visual inspection of the properties.

"That's important -- our relationship with landowners," he said.

Survey crews for the project south of Indianapolis have been accused of using threats and intimidation tactics in order to obtain access to private properties. REX has publicly denied those claims.

Schutt did not refer to those reports Monday night, but information he distributed to the commissioners said REX has the legal right to claim eminent domain should a property owner refuse to cooperate. REX said it will offer fair market value for land it wants to purchase for the pipeline.

Schutt said the company is requesting a permanent 50-foot easement for the pipeline and a temporary 75-foot easement for construction. He said the pipeline will take anywhere from five to six months to construct.

The commissioners offered little in the way of comments Monday night, however, Gene Beck, who is also a farmer near Bainbridge, said he is concerned with how deep the pipeline will be buried, which REX officials say will be 36 inches.

"Three feet is not enough," Beck said.

Schutt responded that law requires only 30 inches of soil over a buried pipeline while REX is promising 3 feet.

Several meetings have been conducted in the past months for Putnam County residents who want to sound off about, or show support for, the project. Residents can still ask questions or make comments to the company by calling (866)566-0066. They also have a "feedback" section on their website:

In other business, the commissioners:

* Voted to allow surveyors to begin work on 16 acres of county-owned land in front of the Humane Society of Putnam County, which officials with the West Central Solid Waste District are seeking for a new facility.

County Attorney Scott Hoff said he will begin putting together a lease for the property and will present it to the commissioners for signing at a future meeting. West Central officials, in the meantime, hope to continue discussions with their board of directors on the facility. They plan to construct a building that will house the offices for the recycling district as well as allow for classroom space and a hands-on demonstration area where school children can come and learn about recycling.

* Approved the appointment of Bill Nunn to the advisory board for Putnam County Community Corrections.

* Received a revised copy of the proposed countywide animal control ordinance. Commissioners learned the ordinance would need to be advertised in the newspaper twice and then publicly reviewed and adopted by the commissioners.

* Learned that the city is ready to begin construction on the Sgt. Cunningham property, located on the west side of Fillmore Road north of Lear Corporation. Bill Dory said the city will be extending CR 50 South to the west from where it currently makes a right angle and turns south to Ind. 240.

Dory said Fillmore Road may need to be closed at different times throughout the project. More details on the closings are promised in the near future.

The commissioners' next meeting will be 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4 at the Putnam County Courthouse Annex.

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