By Mark Waite
Kern River Gas Transmission Company expects the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to issue a draft environmental impact statement in May on their 33-mile, 12-inch in diameter natural gas pipeline from Goodsprings to the BrightSource Energy solar plant, Director of Engineering Scott Miles said Thursday.
Kern River Gas held an open house at the Bob Ruud Community Center in Pahrump Thursday, following presentations at Sandy Valley and Goodsprings.
Miles said the project will require 400 construction workers, construction will last nine months to a year.
“We wouldn’t really go out for bid for the actual construction work until at least 2015. That’s well into the future. We do the permitting first, get the agreements in place. Once we get close and we can see a path going forward we’ll do the contractor bidding,” Miles said.
The company proposed two possible routes, a preferred southern route would be closer to the California state line paralleling a dirt road from Sandy Valley to the solar plant on Tecopa Road. The northern route would be along right-of-way on Highway 160 then west on Tecopa Road.
No private easements will be required since the pipeline will travel strictly on public land.
While BrightSource Energy would generate 500 megawatts of power from 17,000 heliostats, which resemble mirrors, the gas would keep the temperature of the water in the plant high at night, so the company doesn’t have to ramp up for production after sunrise every day. The company isn’t allowed to generate power from non-renewable sources.
Obviously the construction of the gas pipeline would await the final go-ahead on the construction of the solar plant.
The schedule calls for the BLM to issue a final EIS on the gas pipeline by the end of the year, Miles said. Then Kern River Gas will need to get permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC .
BrightSource Energy is building its project on the 3,200-acre Hidden Hills Ranch, which is private land, but BrightSource still has to get approval from the California Energy Commission. The CEC is holding hearings in Shoshone, Calif., March 12-15 on the solar plant after issuing its final staff assessment in December.
“We’ve done some botany and biological surveys on the project area and we’re going to continue to do those as there’s different windows for some of these surveys,” Miles said.
The company is evaluating safety, environmental considerations, land use compatibility, economics, agriculture, archaeological and cultural resources and constructability.
Kern River Gas met with members of the Old Spanish Trail Association last November and is scheduled to meet with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office in March to discuss possible mitigation measures to protect the Old Spanish Trail.
Miles explained why Kern River Gas prefers the southern route.
“Overall, what it is we look at are a number of factors, one is environmental, the second is constructability. The northern route has a lot of washes and it’s really rocky. Then on the environmental side there’s a lot more of the Joshua trees along that area. There is an existing right-of-way there on the northern route but there is also some pretty, existing Joshua tree forest, and if we did the project there it will leave a real clear scar,” Miles said.
When speaking of the southern route, he said, “Out of Sandy Valley it will be less noticeable. There’s no Highway 160 there. Overall we feel it will provide the least impact of the options.”
The pipeline will be built three to four feet underground, Miles said.
There’s only one customer at the moment for the pipeline, BrightSource Energy. He said the BLM and FERC will only allow the pipeline to be sized large enough for that project.
But Miles said, “that doesn’t mean nobody else can come in. We’re certainly willing to talk to other potential customers. If we find some other customers, we need long-term agreements before we proceed. If someone is willing to enter into a long-term agreement, we can up the size of the pipe or extend it wherever the need may be.”
“It doesn’t mean we can’t make changes later on, a couple of years down the road if someone came in. We could analyze the situation,” he said.
The project is expected to generate $45,000 annually in property tax revenues for Nye County, the company states. Clark County, which has most of the miles of the pipeline, will receive property tax revenues of over $1 million.
Miles said public hearings on the gas pipeline will be scheduled after the release of the EIS.
“As a company we feel that we want to be a good community partner. That’s why we’re coming out here, taking input from the public. It’s good feedback for us and for the BLM. Based on the feedback the BLM will be able to make a decision which route is best for the project,” he said.
Kern River Gas currently operates 1,717 miles of pipeline in four states, including 275 miles in Nevada. It operates a pipeline from gas fields of southwestern Wyoming, through Utah and Southern Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley near Bakersfield, Calif.