Deadline ends for public comment period for Red Lake gas storage project

A letter from the city of Kingman criticizing a proposed natural gas storage facility is among several letters that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission received by Monday's deadline for public comment.

Kingman Mayor Les Byram submitted a two-page letter and three-page attachment stamped Dec.

27 to FERC.

The city expressed concerns about brine disposal, natural gas leakage and the location of a proposed pipeline to the facility, which would be built in the Red Lake area north of Kingman.

Aquila Inc.

of Kansas City proposed the storage project and pipeline with the intent of leasing storage space in two salt caverns.

"During the cavern construction and brine disposal process, large volumes of brine will be pumped out of and into alluvial sediments of Hualapai Basin," Byram wrote.

"This pumping could have a deleterious affect (sic) on the quality of the groundwater in the Hualapai Basin if the brine disposal wells are not properly placed with respect to faults or zones of weakness."

Byram also expressed concern that natural gas would percolate through the aquifer and affect groundwater quality if the gas were to leak from the caverns or the casing, possibly causing explosions.

He urged Aquila to restudy the route for the pipeline because it would pass through areas with existing homes and proposed housing developments.

Aquila's proposed route south through the Hualapai Basin is along the west side of Route 66, crossing Route 66 south of the Kingman Airport and continuing to the terminus near D.W.

Ranch Road south of Interstate 40.

Aquila stuck to its proposed route in a 17-page document stamped Dec.

17 that the company's attorneys filed with FERC.

The attorneys wrote the company's favored route is "the most practicable and minimizes necessary environmental disturbance." The route would affect 414 acres and 54 landowners, according to the document.

Luis Vega, a registered geologist who is consulting the city about the project, said he has not had an opportunity to review the document from Aquila's attorneys.

Aquila spokesman Al Butkus could not be reached for comment about the FERC filings.

FERC's application generated "quite a few responses" by Monday's deadline, spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said.

FERC conducted a public meeting Nov.

14 at Mohave Community College.

She said FERC extended the deadline because Aquila officials notified commission staff that the company had missed some property owners in the Red Lake area who were required to be notified.

"It wasn't necessarily a delay," Young-Allen said.

Young-Allen, who is based in Washington, D.C., said the next step is to conduct an environmental assessment on the project.

The assessment covers matters such as air quality, cultural resources such as Indian artifacts, wetlands, land uses, and endangered and threatened species.

She said FERC does not have a time frame but probably would finish the assessment by July.

Aquila bought the storage project in January 2002 from Southwest Gas Corp., a sale that included 36,000 acres and the rights to develop a salt cavern storage facility and the water and mineral rights needed to build it.

During a meeting in July, Aquila officials said the project would stimulate the economy by creating 227 construction and 10 permanent jobs, generate tax revenue and lower energy costs for consumers by increasing the storage capacity for natural gas.

Aquila has planned to begin construction for the $160 million project this spring and finish it by the first quarter of 2004.