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SSJID: PG&E gas line might induce growth triggering EIR study need

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POSTED February 10, 2010 2:53 a.m.
PG&E’s plans to place a 24-inch natural gas line through a swath of rural South Manteca is likely to be “growth inducing” and therefore may require an environmental impact study before work can proceed.

It is one of several points the South San Joaquin Irrigation District made in a Feb. 3 letter to PG&E attorney Mark Penskar over a 2.5-mile long pipeline project that runs from Woodward Avenue to West Ripon Road about midway between Union Road and Oleander Avenue.

PG&E’s position is that they can do whatever they want within the SSJID right-of-way and that since it is within their existing service territory they are not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

PG&E had already awarded the contract before submitting plans to SSJID as required by the master agreement they inked with SSJID to operate within the irrigation district’s easements. The board at the Jan. 26 meeting refused to approve the necessary district permits out of concern about how construction would impact SSJID facilities. Specifically they focused on PG&E’s plans trenching under a canal as well as dewatering the ground and dumping the water and possibly mud into SSJID line used to irrigate farmland.

The pipeline at one point needs to go under a SSJID canal. PG&E intends to drop the line down to 42 feet and then back up. It is in an area where the water table is 10 to 12 feet below the surface.

SSJID points out they have no idea of what PG&E will dump into the irrigation lines – clean water, contaminated water, or excessive mud – nor does PG&E. It is further complicated by the fact SSJID must comply with the permit it carries under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System since the canal ultimately flows into the San Joaquin River and the ecologically sensitive Delta.

The letter from SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields also requests that PG&E provide SSJID with information on how many people the existing 16-inch line serves and how many people they expect the 24-inch line will serve. They also want to know whether PG&E will keep using the older line.

Shields said the district will evaluate the project based on information supplied by PG&E to determine if a negative declaration will suffice or whether there are significant impacts. The latter would trigger a full environmental impact report requirement.

Shields also noted that it is necessary that PG&E provide detailed construction schedules so SSJID can coordinate construction and maintenance project it has on SSJID lines that PG&E simply assumed they could dump water into from the dewatering. The SSJID is concerned about worker safety and being able to finish needed maintenance work so irrigation isn’t disrupted once the season starts March 15.

Shields added if the two agencies can’t agree on a dewatering plan that the SSJID has the right to file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission to ask for a hearing.

PG&E’s initial response to SSJID’s refusal to allow them to work within the water district’s easement without further information was to threaten a lawsuit.
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