A new natural gas pipeline may soon be installed to meet the needs of what Union Gas describes as the fast-growing greenhouse industry in Leamington and Kingsville.
The planning process for the new pipeline reached the public consultation step Tuesday, Aug. 1 with an open house at the Kingsville Arena Complex. There, a steady flow of interested and concerned residents and landowners gathered to offer their input on an assortment of potential routes the proposed 20-inch diameter pipeline could take in connecting with the previously installed Panhande Pipeline section running east-west through Lakeshore. Depending on which of the paths being studied is selected, the new line will run from between 15 and 20 km in length, ending at one of two locations along Graham Side Road in Kingsville — a new valve site at Concession Road 3 East or an existing valve site at Concession Road 2 East, both just over two kilometres west of Ruthven.
Another public open house hosted between Union Gas and Stanton Consulting Ltd. took place 24 hours after the Kingsville gathering in Woodslee. Feedback from the two forums will be used in an evaluation to select the preferred corridor and route of the new project, to run at a cost of $95 million to $115 million. After a second information session takes place in the fall of this year, the selected route will be confirmed and an environmental report will be prepared.
From there, Union Gas will submit a completed application for the project to the Ontario Energy Board. Union Gas Windsor-Chatham district manager Sean Collier explained that the company expects to wait about a year before hearing the OEB’s decision on the application and if approved, will begin construction in the spring of 2019. The current projected timeline pegs the completion of construction at a point in the fall of 2019, followed by a site clean up, restoration and post-construction monitoring process that will carry on into the spring of 2020.
Collier noted that public input from affected property owners — as well as feedback from Indigenous populations and the potential impact on agriculture and the environment — are among the factors being considered before a corridor and route are selected.
“We live in these communities too — we know the importance of community support,” he stated. “We want to pick the route that makes the most sense to landowners.”
The company reported that initial public feedback has been largely favourable.
“The reaction is positive. People recognize the benefits natural gas brings to their community and are open to working with us,” Collier stated.
While residents attending the open house in Kingsville were eager to voice their concerns, many were also satisfied with the answers to their questions.
“They were very specific in what they guaranteed,” said Sharon Hartley, who operates Hartley Farms along with Vaughn Hartley along County Road 34. “Being on farmland, we were concerned that they might cut through the tile. They were very up front with us.”
“They guaranteed that the tile wouldn’t get cut,” Vaughn added. “They told us that everything would remain functional after they were finished.”
Union Gas has also been in contacted with local municipalities regarding the new project, including Kingsville, Lakeshore and Leamington. Collier explained that the respective councils have been receptive to the project.
“We’ve had very positive responses,” he noted. “They want to be sure they’re being consulted and we’ve developed a very strong relationship with the municipalities. They have a very high level of awareness with regards to what’s going on.”
Collier further explained that the pipeline extension from the completed Panhandle project will address residential and commercial demand as well as the greenhouse industry. With construction ongoing for a similar project from Dawn Euphemia in Lambton County to Dover Centre west of Chatham, Union Gas is currently fielding a growing need for natural gas across Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent. Collier explained that such construction projects have proven economically beneficial to surrounding communities, noting that the Lambton-Kent project is currently providing an economic boost in Wallaceburg.