Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Natural gas line to get upgrade

Express Staff Writer

In order to increase natural gas capacity to the north end of the Wood River Valley, Intermountain Gas Co. will be upgrading the system there this week and in mid-August.

According to a press release, the company will be working on the pipeline this week at the intersection of Second Avenue and Serenade Lane, including the bike path, which will interrupt traffic.

During the week of Aug. 17, more work will take place at the same intersection, as well as in areas on River Ranch Road and Meadow Circle, both on the west side of the highway opposite the Elkhorn Road stoplight on state Highway 75. This construction is expected to cause "minor traffic disruptions" in these areas and on the nearby bike path.

Intermountain Gas has claimed since last year that the pipeline leading to Sun Valley and Ketchum, which starts just south of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, is at capacity and will not be enough to handle growth if a number of large-scale projects are built in the area.

David Nelson, spokesman for Intermountain Gas, said that further upgrades will be needed, but the schedule of that work has yet to be determined.

Nelson said that while the current improvements are within the company's budget, the next round of upgrades would be dependent on an increase in hook-up fees. Two weeks ago, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission reported that Intermountain Gas has made a request to increase hook-up fees for new customers in the northern portion of the valley.

This hook-up fee, applied to customers north of Gimlet subdivision, would be instituted to pay for a $640,000 upgrade to the Sun Valley Lateral segment of the natural gas pipeline that would allow for increased operating pressure.

According to a press release from the commission, Intermountain Gas stated that customers subject to the proposed hook-up fee would be the same ones causing the need for, and directly benefiting from, the distribution upgrade. The company said its earnings would not increase with the increased hook-up fee.

Intermountain Gas requested that the new fee be implemented by July 15, but the commission postponed the effective date for up to six months to investigate the issue.

Jon Duval:

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