Committee tables proposed gas line through Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

Desert tortoise | Photo courtesy of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George News

ST. GEORGE  A proposal to build an underground 6,600-foot high-pressure gas line through a part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve was tabled Tuesday by the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan Advisory Committee.

Dominion Energy truck, St. George, Utah, Nov. 27, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Dominion Energy proposed a 12-inch pipeline that would run across 1.26 miles of the desert reserve. It would come with a temporary 75-foot wide right of way along the pipeline route then a permanent 30-foot right of way for maintenance.

The pipeline would run 6 miles east from Dominion Energy’s facility near Bluff Street and Red Cliffs Parkway and connect with an existing pipeline running along 3050 East.

The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve segment of the pipeline would run from Red Hills Parkway east toward a spot just north of Rocky Mountain Recycling.

Due to complications of trying to run the pipeline along parts of Red Cliffs Parkway, the city of St. George recommended that Dominion run the pipeline through a segment of city-owned property that happens to be located within the desert reserve.

“It really comes down to how the city wants to steer us,” Darren Shepherd, a spokesman for Dominion Energy, told St. George News Wednesday. “We’ll go with whatever route they’d like.”

The pipeline is considered a critical piece of energy infrastructure for the area as it will help meet increased demands triggered by ongoing growth as well as provide fuel for electricity provided to St. George residents by the city’s Energy Services Department, Shepherd said.

A map detailing the proposed route of the high-pressure gas line, marked in yellow. The section that passes through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is marked in green, St. George, Nov. 28, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While Dominion Energy representatives said a route through the desert reserve and its protected Mojave tortoise habitat was a better option than Red Cliffs Parkway and other alternatives they had considered, HCP committee members appeared skeptical.

“The thought of having a second, large swath cut through the reserve is unpalatable to me,” committee member Chris Hart said.

Dominion Energy’s proposal was originally brought before the HCP’s technical committee during its Oct. 10 meeting where it was met with opposition.

Among the technical committee’s objections was the concern that the area disturbed by the temporary right of way – which would include a temporary road – would not be sufficiently restored. The committee also worried that they wouldn’t be able to locate all of the desert tortoises that would need to be removed from the affected area.

An objection that was shared by the advisory committee and carried the day was a question of whether the committee even had the authority to approve such a project under the HCP’s “utility development protocols.”

During the October meeting, Dominion Energy had also asked for a temporary 100-foot right of way, which it has since reduced to 75 feet.

An undated photo shows a view of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Washington County, Utah | File photo courtesy of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George News

Joe Fox, Dominion Energy’s lead engineer on the proposed project, said Tuesday that they couldn’t go any shorter due to safety concerns as room was needed for heavy equipment, supplies and vehicles running in and out of the area during construction.

The estimated size of the area within the Red Cliff’s Reserve that would be disturbed was also originally around 15 acres. The 25 percent reduction in the right of way access brought that down to 11 acres.

Alternative routes not as friendly or feasible

When questioned about running the pipeline along the rest of Red Hills Parkway or including it in the utilities that would run alongside the northern corridor, Fox said those alternatives weren’t safe or feasible.

Dominion Energy’s Brett Brown said company officials had considered going along Red Cliffs Parkway and avoiding the desert reserve altogether, but St. George officials asked them to consider going through the reserve in order to avoid potentially hazardous traffic impacts to Red Hills Parkway.

The intersection of Red Hills Parkway and 1000 East was seen as problematic as it is among the busiest intersections in the county.

Map showing the proposed location of a new northern corridor route (marked in blue) within the boundaries of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in Washington County | Image courtesy of Washington County, St. George News

“We were really looking at the safety option of it,” said Cameron Cutler, the city’s public works director.

Other challenges of running the pipeline along Red Cliffs Parkway include cramming it into spots where numerous underground utility lines already exist. That would mean having to bury the pipe deeper underground and pose a challenge to maintenance.

Issues surrounding the northern corridor related to the uncertainly of the project’s timeline and final route adoption. The terrain the proposed route passes through also poses extra challenges for pipeline placement.

Dominion Energy officials said they’d hoped to begin work on the pipeline route at the start of December with construction carrying through to mid-February, which is considered the inactive season for the desert tortoise.

Question of authority

Cutler said the city believes the HCP’s utility development protocols allowed for the installation of new utility lines through the desert reserve provided they went through an approval process.

A fence marking the boundary of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2016 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Larry Crist, an HCP committee member representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he believed what Dominion Energy was asking for fell outside of the protocols allowed under the current HCP.

In order to establish a sense of clarity about the rules, Chris Blake, chairman of the HCP advisory committee, called for any pending approval of the pipeline project to be tabled so the committee could review the HCP protocol in more detail.

The committee unanimously agreed.

While putting a pipeline through open land would be preferable to a area heavy with traffic and existing utility lines, Shepherd said Dominion Energy will continue to work with city and county officials on where the pipeline will ultimately rest.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Comment November 28, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Game’s up tortoises! You guys had a good run. A few million years or something? Well, all good things have to come to an end right?

  • Kilroywashere November 28, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    This so sad. LEAVE THE RED CLIFFS RESERVE ALONE. Please, IN THE NAME OF GOD, don’t do this. And if you do, then GO TO HELL! Dominion, you can do better. RESPECT THE ENVIRIONMENT, make it work, you can afford too. And to those St George officials with the “bright idea”, SHAME ON YOU! I have to stop at this point, or Mr Dahl will have to delete this comment if I continue to go on. Dominion, DO THE RIGHT THING!!!!

    • Comment November 28, 2018 at 11:06 pm

      The fact is people would rather have new highways and new housing tracts. No one even likes these turtles–no one that matters, anyway $$$$$$$$$. We got to build build build $$$$$$$. Turn this place into baby las vegas as quick as we can. WE WON’T HAVE NO SILLY TURTLES IMPEDING PROGRE$$!!!

      • Kilroywashere November 29, 2018 at 2:36 am

        Tortoises by the way, And Mr. Comment I appreciate the sarcasm, well justified, but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. You have to draw the line somewhere, and there is no need for this greed. There are more than tortoises at stake. I spent over half a day searching the Red Cliffs reserve above the golf course and Bluff Street a couple of months back during summertime, looking for any sign that 17 year old Macin may have headed to this part of St George, during the anniversary week of his disappearance. WOW! The things I came across were incredible. Ancient Indian sites amongst other things, and eventually found the bones of a dead stag at the bottom of the Canyon, which I reported to the appropriate agency in Hurricane as well as the Red Hills Dessert Reserve museum in downtown St George. It is called a RESERVE for a reason. Besides tortoises, other wildlife abounds. I once witnessed a herd of over 20 deer roam across the hills along City Creek trail this last winter after an afternoon storm. It was a magical experience. So let’s hope Dominion Energy takes the reigns and does the right thing. I wish I knew who these City officials were. If they are elected politicians, then they should justify their actions, and not hide in the shadows. What a stupid idea. I pay a hefty bill during the Winter to Dominion Energy, and they sure as hell can afford to go about this with a better solution then boring into the one and only local pristine desert reserve. I really have the question what the SG officials involved were thinking when the cost is irrelevant to the city. Very fishy if you ask me. CALLOUS AT BEST.

        • Comment November 29, 2018 at 10:07 am

          Wish more folks felt the same way. The political clowns that run this place make it clear all the time they are in it for themselves only. Typical politicians I guess. We’ll see what happens.

      • tcrider November 29, 2018 at 8:06 am

        I am thinking its the developers and city leaders that want the growth, not the people.

      • KR567 November 29, 2018 at 9:06 am

        I’m looking forward to the project getting started more roads and housing and businesses sounds good to me ….embrace it. it’s coming !

    • Redbud November 29, 2018 at 3:48 am

      I agree with Kilroy on this, I hope they don’t allow them through the reserve. Even though the claim it will be more difficult to run the pipe because of the existing utilities, they didn’t say it was impossible. Dominion has already proved their evilness in the state of Utah by attempting to extract extra money from people with those flyers sent to everyone’s house. It was in behalf of some third-party company trying to get you to sign up for some extra insurance on the gaslines in your house for an extra monthly fee. They made it appear like the letter was some kind of official program from Dominion itself. They are under an investigation from the state for their deceptive practices. Make the people moving here to St George pay an extra $1000 impact fee on their new houses to fund the new gas line. That way they shouldn’t have to raise rates, and make those responsible pay their fair share!

  • Kilroywashere November 28, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing, DO THE RIGHT THING. x infinity.

  • iceplant November 29, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Can’t stop shaking my head at the things that go on around here and the evil people who approve it and approve of it.

  • Kilroywashere November 29, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    If they go ahead and do this, it will make a great documentary for YouTube and the annual DOCUTAH exhibition, let alone wrangling it into Sundance. Been awhile since I did music videos as well as a television pilot back in the early 90s. Editing back then ran $100-$200 an hour and was mostly linear, so it was a real pain in the arse to make subtle corrections. Nowadays, you can edit a 30 min documentary in a day and a $70 piece of software does what a million dollar facility could accomplish in those days Just need a little historical background, capture footage during construction, interview city officials, local environmentalists etc, dig into old articles, and wallah, an entertaining cutting edge documentary.

  • utahdiablo November 29, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    Look more forward to the upcoming housing crash everyday….you greedy POS developers and city and council members will all go down with it as well….

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