Lake Pontchartrain phase of 141-mile pipeline nears completion

11 28, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

With the Lake Pontchartrain phase of the $220 million project to run a pipeline from Norco to Mississippi nearly complete, workers will soon begin drilling beneath Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville to continue the northern progression of the line. Initial clearing and grading work has begun near the park and directional land drilling should begin in that area next month, officials said. The pipeline will carry refined liquid petroleum products including gasoline and diesel fuel.

Construction on the 141-mile pipeline began in August and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013. Valero and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners formed a company called Parkway Pipeline LLC to build and operate the 16-inch underground fuel line.

Other than a setback due to Hurricane Isaac, the project has thus far experienced few glitches, said Allen Fore, spokesman for Parkway Pipeline.

“With good weather, the work moves pretty fast,” he said.

The pipeline is being run from Valero St. Charles Refinery to Collins, Miss., where it will connect with a petroleum transportation hub owned by Plantation Pipe Line Company. Kinder Morgan owns 51 percent of Plantation Pipe Line Company and operates the system. From this hub the refined petroleum products will be transported by pipeline systems that serve major markets in the southeastern United States. Once completed, the pipeline will have an initial capacity of 110,000 barrels per day with the ability to expand to 200,000 barrels per day.

Beginning at Valero, the line will run along a guide levee along the Bonnet Carre Spillway into the lake, where it will follow an existing pipeline corridor from the southwest side of the lake to the northeast side, running beneath the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway several miles form the bridge’s northern end. From there, it will run beneath the cabins along Fontainebleau’s shoreline and through the wooded, 2,800-acre state park before skirting Bush and Bogalusa on its way to Collins, which is about 30 miles northwest of Hattiesburg.

In the lake, the line is being laid about four feet below the surface in a trench created by a jetting process. Directional drills will create the path for the under land portion of the project.

A number of federal and state agencies are involved in the approval and oversight of the project, including the Army Corps of Engineers, which has taken the lead on environmental issues. Officials said the pipeline follows existing utility rights-of-way wherever possible to minimize environmental impacts.

John Lopez, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said Parkway Pipeline has been responsive to environmental concerns and he is not aware of any problems thus far caused by the construction project. He said the foundation has had about six meetings with the company and was involved in a field inspection on the barge used to lay pipe in the lake. “No significant issues came up,” he said.

Lopez said that at the behest of the foundation, the company agreed to install shutoff valves on both sides of Lake Pontchartrain to limit environmental damage in the unlikely event of a pipeline rupture. He said the company is devising an oil spill response plan and is willing to accept input from the foundation.

Parkway Pipeline is making a $225,000 contribution to Fontainebleau State Park through the Louisiana Parks Foundation. The donation will be used for a tallow tree eradication project and to repopulate the park with indigenous plant life. The check presentation is scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at the park. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister are among those expected to attend.