Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Highlands Pipeline Update

By Jamie Bachar

It’s been over a year since the New Jersey Highlands Council approved the installation of a natural gas pipeline that would stretch 7.6 miles across the Highlands Preservation Area in Bergen and Passaic counties.

Work began on the pipeline segment to that will come to Mahwah on Feb. 6 when contractors for Tennessee Gas began cutting down trees in Ringwood State Park. The pipeline will be drilled under the Monksville Reservoir and will cut through some of New Jersey’s forests. The pipeline expansion will stretch from West Milford into Ringwood and end in Mahwah.

Pipeline opponents argue that too many trees are going to cut to make room for the natural gas line. So far 16 acres of forest have been approved as well as the temporary removal of another 86 acres of forest during construction. 

The pipeline construction is a $400 million project which connects to a 40-mile pipeline expansion called the Northeast Upgrade running from northeast Pennsylvania to Mahwah. It will run parallel to a older pipeline that is transporting hydraulic fractured gas from Pennsylvania.

There has been considerable opposition from Bergen County residents and environmental groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Recently there has been some disturbance to the Highlands pipeline work site. Tires were slashed and a hydraulic line was cut on tractors used by workers back in February, according to NorthJersey.com. So far there are no suspects or clues as to who might have vandalized the construction site or why.

Residents living near the construction site have also shown concern over the amount of noise. Bergen County officials are demanding that upgrades be made to a metering station in Mahwah to reduce the noise that is disturbing residents and hikers. Native Americans whose ancestors have lived in the area for generations worry that the construction will disturb their burial grounds. People have even chained themselves to the trees in the last few months in an effort to halt the pipeline. 

Those in favor of construction of the natural gas pipeline have noted the 700 new jobs during construction and the $36.5 million in income for local labor that the Tennessee gas has projected.

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