Construction began for the rerouting and replacement of the Williams Northwest Pipeline, part of which runs on Whitworth campus, on March 26. The natural gas pipeline system was originally put in place more than 50 years ago and is now a primary source for natural gas throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Williams Northwest decided to replace the existing line in order to ensure that it was free of leaks and safe to operate. While the company had the right to replace the pipeline in its existing location, Williams Northwest agreed to reroute a portion of the gas line located on Whitworth property to the far north side of campus.
The old portion of the line will be filled with an inert gas, abandoned, buried and sealed for safety. Changing the location of the line will enable Whitworth to expand facilities on its property. Vice President of Finance and Administration Brian Benzel said he is happy with how accommodating Williams Northwest has been about the project.
“For the last five or six years we’ve been trying to get these easements consolidated to the north side of campus because that creates usable land for the university,” Benzel said. “Since they were going to do this anyways we were incentivized to get them to move that line.”
Moving the line creates the possibility for development. One project that has been discussed is the expansion of the existing baseball field.
Avista moved its power line away from the field and relocated it farther north last year. With the power line out of the way and the pipeline being rerouted, the property will be available for further development.
The right side of the baseball field could be increased in size and the entire field itself would have more square footage. Benzel is optimistic about that idea.
“We eventually want to expand the baseball field to the north and these two relocation projects will allow us to do that,” Benzel said. “Home plate will move a little bit to the north and we want to extend right field. There are plans for this. We don’t really have funding for it right now but that may change.”
Trees have been taken down along the north side of campus where the new line is being installed. Large trees will not be replanted in that area due to safety concerns with the gas pipeline in the ground below.
Small trees and brush may be used in the new area to the north once the project is finished. Reforestation is planned for the area where the old easement and pipeline route previously existed.
The university is trying to preserve as much of the vegetation as possible during the construction of the project.
“We don’t like to lose trees but for a good cause we will make that happen,” Benzel said. “We’ll be looking at some reforestation projects as part of a community service project or possibly for community day in the fall.”
Construction for the new pipeline will continue through the summer and is estimated to be finished by the beginning of fall semester.
Any areas that are being worked on will be clearly shown and sectioned off for safety. The project will not interfere with any of the roadways on or near campus. The project on the Whitworth campus is just one segment of pipeline that connects to more than six miles of an existing gas line throughout the city that will be replaced.
Story by Sandra Tully Staff Writer
Photo by Rebekah Daniels
Contact Sandra Tully at email@example.com.