CSC: Docket No. 221 Opinion
Decisions

DOCKET NO. 221 - Algonquin Gas Transmission Company and Islander East Company, LLC application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a proposed new compressor station near East Johnson Avenue, Cheshire, Connecticut; a proposed new meter station adjacent to 67 Laydon Avenue, North Haven, Connecticut; and a new 24-inch diameter gas pipeline from the proposed North Haven meter station to Branford across Long Island Sound to the New York State line.

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Connecticut

Siting

Council

August 1, 2002

Opinion

The Connecticut Siting Council (Council) believes that this proposed project should be reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in conjunction with other competing projects to assess which project can best serve the needs of the region with the least environmental effects. Additionally, we believe that it would be prudent for the FERC to defer issuing a decision on all energy projects that traverse Long Island Sound until the taskforce, which was established pursuant to An Act Concerning the Protection of Long Island Sound, has issued its report and recommendations to the Connecticut Legislature. Nonetheless, we are directed to issue, for this application, recommendations that will specify the preferred route, construction procedures, and environmental mitigation measures that will minimize and mitigate, to the fullest extent possible, adverse effects on the environment, and protect the citizens of the State of Connecticut.

On December 7, 2001, the Algonquin Gas Transmission Company (AGT) and the Islander East Company, L.L.C. (Islander East) applied to the Council for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate) for the construction of a new natural gas compressor station in Cheshire; natural gas metering equipment at the North Haven Metering Station in North Haven; a new pipeline from North Haven to Branford to the Connecticut/New York state boundary in Long Island Sound, and related improvements to existing natural gas facilities in Connecticut. Although the FERC has exclusive jurisdiction for the siting of interstate natural gas transmission facilities including the route selected, the determination of public need, and the mitigation of environmental impacts, the FERC has encouraged applicants before it to cooperate with agencies, such as the Council, with regard to the siting of pipeline facilities, environmental mitigation measures, and construction procedures.

Parties and intervenors to this proceeding include the applicants, Rebecca Mars, the Branford Land Trust, Inc. (BLT), the Town of Guilford, the Town of Branford, State Representative Patricia Widlitz, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Iroquois Gas Transmission System, L.P., State Senator William A. Aniskovich, Save the Sound, Inc., State Representative Peter J. Panaroni, Jr., the Menunkatuck Audobon Society, Mark DeFelice, Tilcon Inc. and Branford Steam Railroad Company (BSR), Juniper Point Association, CT Stop the Pipeline, Edward P. Lang, Raymond J. Gincavage, William and Susan Lazine, Paul and Jacqueline Vierling Huang, and the Town of North Haven. Many of these parties and intervenors are concerned that the proposed project could adversely affect their properties; wetlands and wildlife habitat; fish and shellfish resources; water quality; aesthetics; and the quality of life along the proposed pipeline route.

The Council takes these concerns very seriously. We believe that many of the concerns expressed by the parties and intervenors, and residents who spoke or submitted written comments to the Council can be mitigated through the thoughtful implementation of a detailed Development and Management (D&M) Plan, which we will require prior to commencement of construction or installation.

AGT proposes to construct a natural gas compressor station in the Town of Cheshire; test and upgrade a total of 27.4 miles of its existing C-1 and C-1L natural gas pipelines in the Towns of Cheshire, Wallingford, and North Haven; expose, inspect, and repair approximately two 25-foot segments of the C-1 natural gas pipeline in the Town of Cheshire; and remove two existing launchers from the existing mainline valve and interconnect facility in the Town of Cheshire at approximately milepost (MP) 0.6, and relocate the launchers to the proposed compressor station site. We recognize that AGT's proposed upgrades are necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the interstate natural gas pipeline facilities. Furthermore, the proposed inspection and repair of the two 25-foot segments of the C-1 pipeline is a maintenance activity that should be undertaken regardless of the outcome of this proceeding.

The proposed natural gas compressor station would use approximately 8.7 acres of an approximately 61-acre parcel for the operation of the proposed natural gas compressor station and permanent access road. The proposed compressor station site is predominantly cropland; zoned to allow for office and industrial development; and situated in a sparsely developed area of Cheshire near Interstate 691 and Route 10. The natural gas compressor station site is located within a Level A aquifer area and within the boundary of the state-designated North Cheshire Wellfield Aquifer Protection Area. Consequently, the Town of Cheshire has requested that if the proposed project is approved, AGT allow South Central Regional Water Authority personnel rights to inspect the proposed facility for compliance with the final pollution prevention and control plan; that the site make use of all applicable Best Management Practices recommended by the Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the FERC; that all hazardous materials have secondary containment equal to 150 percent of the maximum storage volume; that impervious surfaces be kept to a minimum; and that clean stormwater runoff be allowed to infiltrate wherever possible. We find that these requested conditions are prudent and reasonable, and we will order AGT to comply.

Islander East proposes to construct approximately 10.2 miles of new 24-inch diameter natural gas pipeline from the North Haven Meter Station through North Haven, East Haven, North Branford, and Branford; approximately 11.0 miles of pipeline from Branford through Long Island Sound to the Connecticut/New York state line; metering equipment at AGT's existing North Haven Meter Station site; and two new mainline valves in the Towns of North Branford and Branford at approximately MP 6.0 and MP 9.9, respectively.

The location of the proposed pipeline, parallel to AGT's existing 8-inch diameter C-5 pipeline from the existing North Haven Meter Station to the BSR tracks in North Branford, and the BSR tracks from North Branford to the shore in Branford minimizes the establishment of a new ROW corridor. Furthermore, of all the routes evaluated, including the proposed route, the Sachem Head Alternative, the Short Beach Alternative, the Pond Alternative, the Salt Marsh Alternative, the Pine Orchard Alternative, and two off-shore route alternatives identified as the Option 2 and Option 3 Alternatives, we believe that the proposed route with the inclusion of the Pond Alternative and a few deviations is preferable because it avoids, to the extent practical, densely developed residential, business, and commercial areas; critical habitats; water supply areas; historic areas; and undesirable geological conditions. Consequently, we will order the Certificate holder to adopt the proposed route, with inclusion of the Pond Alternative and deviations at MP 7.0, MP 8.6, MP 9.2, and MP 9.7.

We believe that deviating from the proposed route at a few locations could greatly minimize the impacts of the proposed project on the Ghiroli property, BLT properties, and sensitive wetland areas. Relocating the proposed pipeline, between approximately MP 7.0 and MP 7.3, to the western portion of the Ghiroli property along a wetland setback area would minimize impacts to the operations of G&G Construction. However, this deviation from the proposed route could affect more forested wetlands. Therefore, we will require the Certificate holder to develop site specific plans for the property identifying the extent of forested wetlands, and construction procedures to minimize the adverse effects to the forested wetlands and the operations of G&G Construction.

The proposed pipeline would cross from the east side of the BSR tracks to the west side at approximately MP 8.6. The applicant has expressed a willingness to move the pipeline crossing to the north by approximately 30 feet to eliminate or minimize the intrusion of the proposed pipeline on a BLT property. We support the proposed movement of the pipeline crossing to the north by approximately 30 feet at approximately MP 8.6, provided the pipeline does not substantially encroach upon properties which were not initially proposed to be traversed by the pipeline. Consequently, we will require the Certificate holder to develop site specific plans and evaluate the feasibility of relocating the proposed pipeline crossing at approximately MP 8.6 to the north by approximately 30 feet to avoid impacts to a BLT property.

The proposed pipeline would be installed along the east side of the BSR marshalling yard between MP 9.25 and MP 9.42. The BSR had raised a concern that relocating the proposed pipeline to the west side of the marshalling yard would limit their operations and future expansion into this area. We take the concerns of the BSR seriously; however, the BSR failed to provide sufficient information to the Council regarding their future plans or any explanation why the proposed pipeline and the BSR tracks could not co-exist in this limited area. Conversely, the applicants stated that they could minimize impacts on rail operations by boring the proposed pipeline beneath the BSR tracks, increasing the depth of burial, and using a heavier wall pipe. We believe that the installation and operation of the proposed pipeline would significantly reduce the net impact to wetlands in this area, while having a minimal effect on the operations of the BSR. Consequently, we will require the Certificate holder to consult with the BSR and develop site specific plans for installing the proposed pipeline along the west side of the marshalling yard.

The proposed pipeline would be installed along the west side of the BSR tracks on BLT property between approximately MP 9.7 to MP 9.9. We believe that relocating the proposed pipeline as detailed in the Pond Alternative route would significantly minimize impacts on a BLT property. The proposed Pond Alternative route would affect more wetlands by crossing a pond at approximately MP 9.8; however, the pond that would be crossed by the proposed pipeline is approximately two to three feet deep; dominated by Common reed, an invasive wetland plant; has low water quality; and limited habitat, educational, or uniqueness value. Conversely, the BLT property to the west of the pond is forested, has recreation trails, and provides upland habitat that complements and enhances the ecological value of the nearby tidal marshes. Consequently, we will require the Certificate holder to consult with the BLT and develop site specific plans for the Pond Alternative route.

Construction of the on-shore segment of the proposed pipeline would involve numerous crews working in succession along the proposed construction ROW performing the following functions: surveying, vegetative clearing, installation of erosion control features; grading, trench excavation, stringing, welding, pipeline installation, backfilling, testing, rough cleanup, and finish cleanup. We believe that the effects associated with the construction of the on-shore segment of the proposed pipeline can be minimized through the development and implementation of a D&M plan with requirements for site specific construction procedures and plans identifying the proposed pipeline, limits of the construction and permanent ROWs, large trees, residential structures, wells, and primary and reserve septic system areas. Furthermore, the D&M plan will be more effective if owners of property, traversed by the proposed pipeline, and their chief elected official are allowed an opportunity to review the plans and submit written comments to the Council. Consequently, we will so order a requirement for consultation and municipal review.

The proposed construction ROW and the proposed temporary workspace areas would be cut and cleared of vegetation. We are cognizant of the fact that clearing the entire work area is expedient and avoids conflicts between the construction equipment and a possible obstruction. However, large trees located within the construction ROW, but beyond the immediate area of the pipeline trench serve important functions. The elimination of the large trees and the canopy they provide would increase light penetration, which may result in desiccation of the wetland, changes in the composition of the wetland community, increased water temperature, and adverse effects to coldwater fisheries. In addition, impacts to forested wetlands would be longer in duration because woody vegetation would require a longer time to become re-established following construction. Consequently, we will order the Certificate holder to maintain large trees located within the construction ROW if they are not a significant obstruction to the construction activities. Furthermore, we will order the Certificate holder to comply with the FERC's Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan and the FERC's Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures (Plan and Procedures) regarding the revegetation of affected forested wetlands. The Certificate holder shall submit a Forested Wetland Revegetation Plan with provisions for planting native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous species within the temporary construction right-of-way and the non-maintained areas of the permanent right-of-way in forested wetland areas.

A ten-foot wide corridor centered over the proposed pipeline would be maintained in a herbaceous state annually, and the entire 50-foot-wide permanent ROW would be cleared once every three years to maintain accessibility of the ROW, delineate the pipeline ROW, and to accommodate pipeline integrity surveys. While the need to maintain the permanent ROW for access and pipeline safety is undeniable, we do not believe it is necessary to clear the entire 50-foot width of the permanent ROW. Indeed, the installation of the proposed pipeline adjacent to existing ROWs for the C-5 pipeline and the BSR, which are already cleared and maintained, should allow opportunities for access and inspection. Therefore, we will order the Certificate holder to maintain a ten-foot wide corridor centered over the pipeline in a herbaceous state annually, and clear no more than a 30-foot wide corridor centered over the pipeline no more than once every three years in upland areas. Selective cutting of tree limbs, which overhang into the 30-foot wide corridor, will be allowed, where they materially obstruct visibility.

We are very concerned that the proposed construction activities could change the values and functions of wetlands traversed by, or adjacent to, the proposed pipeline. Unfortunately, the proposed pipeline cannot completely avoid wetlands, or indirect impact to wetlands. The proposed placement of excavated material adjacent to the proposed trench in wetlands could result in the temporary filling of a wetland, which may change the nutrient and oxygen levels, vegetation types, and hydrology of the wetlands. Furthermore, the removal of vegetation and changes in wetland conditions may invite the establishment of invasive plants, which may impair recreation and cause a loss of biological diversity. Consequently, we will order the Certificate holder to minimize and mitigate impacts to wetlands by requiring that construction activities be limited within a buffer area, between 25 and 50 feet in width, near wetlands; that specialized construction activities be undertaken in and near wetlands; that an invasive species management plan be developed, which includes provisions for post-construction monitoring, and removal of excessive invasive plants; and that a wetland restoration plan be developed to restore and improve the condition of wetlands disturbed by the proposed pipeline construction. A wetland restoration plan would promote native plant species and the habitats in which they occur, and decrease the time it would take to restore the pipeline ROW to pre-construction conditions.

The proposed pipeline would be installed approximately three feet or more below the sediments of Long Island Sound using horizontal directional drilling (HDD), dredging, and sub-sea plowing. Direct and indirect affects on the marine environment resulting from the installation of the off-shore segment of the proposed pipeline would include the physical disturbance of bottom habitats; increased water column turbidity and consequent reduced respiratory efficiency of marine organisms in the vicinity of the proposed pipeline; locally increased chemical and sediment oxygen demand; the temporary displacement of mobile organisms away from the proposed construction area; and increased mortality of stressed or immobile organisms. While there would be minimal re-suspension of sediments caused by the proposed sub-sea plow operations, the dredging operations and the erosion of spoil piles adjacent to the pipeline trench and transition basin would result in the increased re-suspension, dispersion, and deposition of sediment. The effects of sedimentation resulting from the erosion of the dredge spoil pile could be minimized by decreasing the time the spoil piles are exposed to erosion; reducing the profile of the spoil piles, removing the spoil from the transition basin by barge; and/or installing sediment containment structures. Consequently, we will order the Certificate holder to evaluate the feasibility of using the proposed sub-sea plow between MP 10.9 and MP 12.0; remove the excavated spoil from the perimeter of the transition basin; or alternatively develop a plan to minimize erosion of the proposed spoil piles around the perimeter of the transition basin.

The proposed pipeline would be installed using HDD from the Branford shore to approximately MP 10.9. While HDD would eliminate impacts associated with conventional in-water construction methods in the near-shore area, there is a possibility that the release of large quantities of drilling fluid could adversely effect the benthic community in the vicinity of the drilling fluid release. Therefore, we will require the Certificate holder to develop a directional drilling monitoring and operations plan with provisions to identify, contain, and recover the unplanned release of drilling fluid between the shore and MP 10.9, and at the HDD exit hole and transition basin.

The effects of elevated suspended sediment concentrations in the water column could cause the suffocation and starvation of oysters and clams. However, we are confident that the installation of the off-shore segment of the proposed pipeline will not have significant impacts to shellfish resources located proximate to the proposed pipeline. In order to determine if the re-suspension of sediment caused by installation of the off-shore segment of the proposed pipeline has had any affect on shellfish beds in the area, we will require the Certificate holder to submit a plan for a pre-construction and post-construction survey of the benthic community, including leased and unleased shellfish beds under the jurisdiction of the state and the Town of Branford, proximate to the proposed pipeline route. Furthermore, we will require the Certificate holder to submit a plan for the post-construction restoration of shellfish beds proximate to the proposed pipeline route and anchor placement area, as deemed necessary by, and in coordination with, the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture. We believe that these measures are appropriate, and will serve to mitigate any long-lasting effects to commercially valuable and ecologically important shellfish resources.

We defer to agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Long Island Sound Programs on the matter of establishing an acceptable installation window for the installation of the off-shore segment of the proposed pipeline. These agencies have expertise in the management of fish and shellfish resources in Long Island Sound. We are confident that these agencies will only permit the installation of the proposed pipeline at such a time that will safeguard the marine environment. Therefore, we will require the Certificate holder to submit a proposed schedule for the in-water construction procedures in coordination with state and federal agencies during submittal of the D&M Plan.

The Connecticut DEP stated that the small yellow pond lily and the boreal turret snail, two state-listed endangered, threatened, or special concern species are known to inhabit Cedar Lake near MP 5.9 along the proposed IE pipeline. However, the proposed pipeline does not cross Cedar Lake, and no adverse effects to the small yellow pond lily and the boreal turret snail are anticipated. Although the Connecticut DEP has indicated that there is the potential for endangered, threatened, or special concern species to occur in the vicinity of the proposed project corridor based on habitat requirements, there are no records of their presence in any other specific location within or adjacent to the proposed project corridor. Additionally, the Connecticut DEP identified seven state-listed endangered, threatened, or special concern species that have the potential to occur in the vicinity of the proposed pipeyard on Toelles Road in Wallingford; however, the proposed pipeyard is located on a cleared, previously disturbed, industrially-zoned parcel.

No federally listed or proposed, threatened and endangered species under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are known to occur in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project area. Although state and federally listed and endangered roseate terns are found on Falkner Island, the proposed project area would be located approximately four miles to the west, and the proposed construction schedule should avoid effects to roseate terns and other migratory birds. Long Island Sound is also home to marine turtles that are listed as state or federal endangered or threatened species, according to the Connecticut DEP and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Although the proposed installation schedule may overlap the time period that marine turtles may be found in Long Island Sound, they are mobile and should be able to avoid the installation vessels. Consequently, we do not believe that the proposed project would have an adverse impact to roseate terns and marine turtles.

In order to verify consistency with the Council's Decision and Order, we will require the Certificate holder to hire an independent inspector(s), subject to Council approval, to document compliance with environmental requirements, prepare status reports, and act as a liaison between the Council, and the Certificate holder's environmental inspector and contractors. This independent inspector will provide weekly progress reports in writing to the Council and to the chief elected official, or their representative, of each municipality affected by the proposed project describing all significant construction activities and all associated environmental effects. This independent inspector would have formal training and experience in civil and environmental engineering, and have sufficient oversight and authority to stop construction practices that are inconsistent with the Council's Decision and Order; the FERC's Certificate requirements; the approved Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan; or that may cause significant damage or disruption to the environment.

With the conditions listed above, we will issue a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the Algonquin Gas Transmission Company and Islander East Company, LLC application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a proposed new compressor station near East Johnson Avenue, Cheshire, Connecticut; metering equipment at the North Haven Compressor Station adjacent to 67 Laydon Avenue, North Haven, Connecticut; and a new 24-inch diameter gas pipeline from the North Haven Meter Station to Branford across Long Island Sound to the New York State line with few route variations.

To ensure that the proposed project is properly developed, we will require the applicants to submit a D&M Plan which will include provisions for public comment and review; detailed site plans; an erosion and sediment control plan consistent with the 2002 Connecticut Guidelines for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control; a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plan; provisions for revegetation and maintenance of the proposed ROW; provisions for inspection and monitoring of the proposed ROW; a plan for a pre-construction and post-construction survey of the benthic community; a shellfish restoration plan; independent inspection of all construction procedures; cooperation and notification requirements with the Coast Guard and the commercial fishing community; and post-construction mapping and reporting requirements for the off-shore segment of the proposed pipeline.



Content Last Modified on 10/9/2002 12:31:02 PM