Tesoro offers a compromise
Tesoro Refining & Marketing officials publicly identified a new, preferred route for the Uinta Express Pipeline at the Summit County Council meeting on Wednesday, essentially moving it out of the middle of the Kamas Valley.
Earlier in the month, Tesoro met with water purveyors and county officials to address key concerns and explore new route options.
The preferred route would stay on the eastern hillside of the Kamas Valley, east of Rockport Reservoir, away from the proximity to water sources and residential areas.
Doug Evans, Chief Technical Officer of Mountain Regional Water, said the route would cross the Provo River in Woodland, before heading north up on the bench, where it will stay in the hills above Francis and Kamas.
"Its stays in the eastern foothills until it comes to Oakley. It then drops into the eastern side of Oakley and crosses the Weber River, staying in agricultural parcels," Evans said. "It then follows the Weber Canyon Road for about a mile and then heads north again, over the hills, north of Oakley to Wanship."
The new route, Evans said, addresses watershed concerns because it crosses fewer wetlands, streams and ditches. It no longer runs parallel to the Weber River, he said, but is now in a drier area.
"We feel like if the project is going to go, we at least worked with them to get it into a safer area," Evans said. "I think we’ve come a long way and have addressed a lot of issues."
The 135-mile-long, heated pipeline that Tesoro is proposing to build would transport about 60,000 barrels of waxy crude per day. Tesoro claims the pipeline would reduce the 250 tanker trucks on Interstates 40 and 80, that are currently carrying the oil from sites in the Uinta Basin to the Salt Lake City refinery.
"The East Rockport Route is where we want to move and continue to invest our time and our energy in investigating its feasibility," Michael Gebhardt, Tesoro’s vice president of strategy and planning, told the council at the meeting. "As we started looking into it, the east route is not without its challenges and concerns, but it was less than what we found when we looked out to the west."
Gebhardt said the benefits of the new route are:
- It avoids the Rockport Reservoir
- Avoids going through the center of the Kamas Valley
- Reduces river and wetland crossings
- Reduces the number of miles paralleling major rivers
- Avoids sole source aquifers
- Avoids high concentration of residences
However, Gebhardt said the new route is not devoid of all concerns and potential difficulties. In moving the pipeline out of the Kamas Valley, it places it at an elevated position and away from existing pipeline corridors.
"As a project team it’s a more expensive route, but in the spirit of collaboration and wanting to work in our shared value with the community and the environment, that route is where we have settled," Gebhardt said.
Tesoro still plans to install the pipeline underground, but acknowledged there would be visible disturbances to the land as it is opened and the pipeline laid. Where practical, both the gradient and the vegetation will be restored.
Gebhardt said Tesoro is currently working with specific landowners through the Environmental Impact Statement process. But, he added, the next level of the project requires designation of a specific route.
"As we come into the first part of any project, it’s about getting all the details worked out," he said. "Now, the next step is more detailed engineering."
As it stands, the plan is about 30 percent complete. The next phase includes detailed engineering to consider a wide range of alternatives and an analysis of the impacts, Gebhardt said.
The environmental impact statement will study five alternatives:
- No action
- East Rockport Route (preferred)
- Northern Route (proposed)
- West Hills Route
- East Canyon Route
Public Works Director Derrick Radke said the new route is reasonable, but collaboration as the EIS process moves forward needs to continue, while all alternative routes are evaluated.
"The county departments have been working really closely and we appreciate the efforts that have been made to avoid a lot of the initial concerns," he said. "We’ll go down two parallel paths as we work with the board to make sure that for you, and our citizens, we are getting the best and safest route or no route, whatever the case may be, for our county.
"We want them to evaluate the routes that have already been looked at, but I don’t think there is another alternative that is better, in addition to what is already out there," Radke said.
Anyone with comments or questions regarding the pipeline can contact the Uinta Express Pipeline Community Care Line at (801) 560-3044.
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