Tesoro is in the beginning stages of preparing its environmental impact statement for the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline and has been meeting with area water managers to assess concerns with potential impacts to waterways. Although the consequences of a possible spill of waxy crude oil in a waterway are not known, officials want any and all preventative measures taken.
The Weber and Provo Rivers are the two primary waterways of concern with the proposed pipeline route. Steve Cain, facilities and lands manager with the Provo River Water Users Association, said Tesoro officials have been open to water managers' concerns, but he doesn't want to let up on the pressure.
"The various water [managers] wanted to impress on the minds of the designers and future operators of this [pipeline] how critical the water infrastructure is that they are crossing and will be parallel to," Cain said.
Cain added that water managers stressed the impact even a small oil spill would have on public perception, citing the 2010 Chevron oil spill, which gushed 8,700 gallons into the Jordan River and Red Butte Creek as a precedent. He said the impact of a spill on pristine waters in the Uinta Mountains would be even more dire.
Mountain Regional Water General Manager Andy Armstrong also met with Tesoro officials and said they were receptive to concerns. He said Mountain Regional wants to make sure the Weber River is protected because it has its main intake there, serving the Park City area.
"We asked them to reroute [around the Weber River], or at least have it a minimum distance from the river," Armstrong said.
A potential spill in the Provo River would immediately impact Jordanelle Reservoir, Cain said, as even the equivalent of one barrel of oil spilled would spread itself out across the entire surface of the reservoir, resulting in a rainbow-like sheen.
"Even though that can be cleaned up, that image would be on TV and in the press and people would be very hard pressed to get that out of their minds," Cain said. "People would be uncomfortable going to the Jordanelle and drinking from it."
Although the impact on drinking water would not be great, Cain said, a spill would leave an indelible mark that would take a lot of education to reverse.
Black waxy crude oil solidifies at 95 degrees Fahrenheit while yellow waxy crude oil solidifies at 115 F, so water managers are unsure how long oil would be able to flow in the event of a spill before it solidifies.
Cain said that future meetings between Tesoro and area water managers will go like this: water managers express concerns with aspects of the proposed route, Tesoro designs infrastructure that addresses those concerns, water managers review those designs for efficacy and then advise Tesoro on whether a solution will work.
"The singular message is that Tesoro seems to be willing to do the right thing and fund the right thing," Cain said. "If someone's willing to do the right thing and fund it, then you can make a lot of progress."
Meetings with cities
Last week, Tesoro representatives briefed the Coalville City Council on the proposed pipeline route near their city, according to Tesoro spokesperson Cindy Gubler.
Mayor Trever Johnson said the city had written a letter expressing concern with the route possibly traveling near Icy Springs and that Coalville officials wanted their desire for certain buffer zones and protected areas to be known.
"In my view, the city's stance on [the pipeline] is, as long as they're not impacting our infrastructure, we're fine with it," Johnson said, who agrees with Tesoro's intent to parallel the Kern River natural gas line.
Johnson asked Coalville's engineers to be involved with the layout process and to analyze how the city would be impacted by the pipeline, even though it would most likely not run through Coalville's city limits.
"[The pipeline] makes sense in keeping trucks off the road," Johnson said. "I think that helps."
Gubler said Tesoro has scheduled an open house meeting at South Summit Middle School in Kamas for June 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. The company has met with Francis Mayor R. Lee Snelgrove, who could not be reached for comment.
The purpose of the June 10 open house meeting, Gubler said, will be to address residents' concerns and to get additional information out about the pipeline.
For more information on the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline, visit uintaexpresspipeline.com.