Consulting Solutions that Work for People and the Environment

Bluestone Pipeline Permitting Project

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Gomez and Sullivan has been assisting URS with specialty ecological services on natural gas and oil pipeline permitting projects. The Bluestone Pipeline is a proposed 36-inch-diameter gathering system that will collect natural gas from the Marcellus Shale area in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and connect to the Millennium Pipeline in southern New York. Gomez and Sullivan staff assisted by planning and performing surveys for 10 state-listed plants along Phases 2 and 3 of the proposed pipeline. Gomez and Sullivan staff used field computers equipped with GPS receivers to navigate the pipeline, map populations, and collect data on each rare plant occurrence. We created a field application in ESRI’s ArcMap that used current digital orthophotos as background maps. The field Geographic Information System (GIS) included delineated wetlands and streams, the proposed centerline for the pipeline, proposed work limits, and a survey area. A custom field application allowed staff to rapidly collect all data required by the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory.

Our staff found populations of two of the species in several areas crossed by the proposed pipeline, Viola rennifolia and Galium trifidum. Impacts to a small population of Viola rennifolia (kidney-shaped violet, proposed status is Pennsylvania Rare) were avoided after rerouting the proposed right-of-way. Several populations of Galium trifidum (marsh bedstraw, proposed status is Pennsylvania Rare) were found in wetlands along Phases 2 and 3 (Figure 1).

Gomez and Sullivan staff negotiated mitigation and monitoring requirements with staff from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR). Attempting to collect seeds or transplant this very small, weak-stemmed plant would not be feasible. Therefore, our staff developed a mitigation plan that includes segregating excavated soil layers at all wetland crossings where the species was identified. Soil layers will be replaced in order when the pipeline trench is backfilled. We anticipate that buried propagules will allow the species to re-sprout after construction. Post-construction monitoring will be conducted to determine whether the plants successfully re-establish.

Our staff is also assisting URS with planning and permitting for the proposed Flanagan oil pipeline. This proposed line will carry crude oil from an Enbridge terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma, nearly 600 miles east to a terminal in Flanagan, Illinois. Jim Kooser, a senior ecologist with Gomez and Sullivan, is coordinating all project activities that may fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He is working with project engineers and staff from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to identify migratory bird species of concern along the line, potential impacts that may arise from the project, and possible mitigation scenarios. Mr. Kooser will help lead field teams that survey portions of the proposed route for bird species of concern. He is also assisting URS staff with assessments of potential impacts to state- and federally listed species along the route.