Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mayors hunt for info from Intermountain Gas

Utility: North Valley’s supply lines not ready

Express Staff Writer

Intermountain Gas Co. representatives have told local elected officials that the company will provide a detailed report on needed additional pipeline capacity in northern Blaine County in six to eight weeks.

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall and Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich, along with officials from both cities, met with company representatives during a Ketchum City Council meeting Monday to discuss a natural gas capacity shortage that became public knowledge last week. Company representatives assured them that supplies are sufficient to continue current service to the north valley, but that an upgrade will be needed for large future development.

Rick Moore, a spokesman for Intermountain Gas, said in an interview last week that the low-pressure pipeline that begins at the south end of Ketchum near St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center would not be enough to handle growth if a number of large-scale projects are built in Ketchum or Sun Valley.

To correct the capacity issue, a new high-pressure line would likely have to be added alongside the existing line, the cost of which Moore estimated at $2 million to $3 million.

Until the new line is in place, the company might not be able to serve new projects with large natural gas demands.

However, the company is still researching the current limits of its capacity for this line and related impact on projects that are before the cities, including the recently approved Hotel Ketchum.

"What I took away from the meeting is that the complexity is not the ability to improve the line, but to figure out what the requirements are and plans that fit the projections," Willich said. "This is not a reason to panic, but we need more information and the assessment on future projects. Right now I'm just relying on their good judgement."

Some members of the development community have expressed concern that if the capacity issue is not resolved soon, it could amount to a moratorium on building in the two cities.

Moore said, however, that projects are still being considered on an individual basis.

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