Eagleswood Residents Wary of New Natural Gas Pipe Across Bay to LBI

Secondary Main From Dock Road to Beach Haven Park
Oct 04, 2017

Eagleswood residents gave an earful to representatives of the proposed Long Beach Island Reinforcement Project last week. They gathered for a public hearing on the town’s application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres Program, to divert 0.02 acres (approx. 900 square feet) of parkland at the end of Dock Road for a permanent easement to New Jersey Natural Gas.

The easement would be the site at which NJNG would connect a secondary natural gas pipeline under the bay to supply Long Beach Island in the event of another weather event on the scale of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Thursday night at Eagleswood town hall, a panel of four men represented New Jersey Natural Gas; Edison-based engineering and environmental consulting firm CDM Smith; and general contractor for the directional drilling, Carson Corporation. The men took the comments and questions, and offered as much as they could in the way of answers – which was not much, given the purpose of the hearing was to stick strictly to the topic of the land diversion, although residents’ thoughts and concerns extended to the new pipeline’s much larger potential implications.

The lead presenter was project manager David Tanzi from CDM Smith.

The plan would run 2.72 miles of 12-inch Powercrete epoxy-coated steel pipe as a secondary feed under Little Egg Harbor, by way of directional boring or horizontal directional drilling, from the end of Dock Road in West Creek to West 99th Street (Alabama Avenue) in Beach Haven Park.

Horizontal directional drilling is a steerable, trenchless method of installing underground pipe, conduit or cable in a shallow arc along a prescribed bore path by using a surface-launched drilling rig. It is said to have minimal impact on the surrounding area.

The project application, to be filed by Eagleswood Township on behalf of NJNG through the Green Acres Program, is for a proposed major diversion of township-owned parkland known as “the pavilion” at the end of Dock Road. The major diversion would end up disturbing 0.02 acres (of the total 29,000-square-foot area) for a permanent, subsurface NJNG easement.

In exchange for the easement, Eagleswood Township would receive monetary compensation in the amount of $70,000, which the town would use to purchase open space.

Thursday’s public hearing was required because the proposed project involves encumbered land: the paved parking and boat launch area. Fishing and other recreation can continue during construction, Tanzi said. Though vehicle parking might be temporarily moved to Dock Road, use of the area would not otherwise be interrupted.

Cedar Run Dock Road was the other possible location to connect the mainland to Long Beach Island, Tanzi explained. But the West Creek alternative was determined to be more feasible because it is already near a gas main and, as a paved parking lot, no existing vegetation or wetlands would be harmed.

The LBI Reinforcement Project is one of the capital projects in NJNG’s New Jersey Reinvestment in System Enhancements program, approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in July 2014. (The previous year, the BPU had sought proposals to support and protect utility infrastructure.)

The other projects include: 1.5 miles of distribution main in Sea Bright as a secondary feed; moving a regulator station off the barrier islands and installation of a new high-pressure feed to Mantoloking; installation of a secondary feed from Toms River to the South Seaside peninsula; the installation of a supplemental regulator station in Ship Bottom; and installation of approximately 35,000 excess flow valves in potential storm-affected areas (to restrict the gas flow when there is a change in pressure on the service line).

Through the five-year, $102.5 million NJ RISE initiative, NJNG aims “to enhance the resiliency of its natural gas distribution and transmission systems and help mitigate the impact of major weather events in the future.”

In the aftermath of Sandy, NJNG cut service from Bay Head to Seaside Park and to Long Beach Island in Ocean County, as well as isolated areas of coastal Monmouth County, then re-pressurized or replaced 270 miles of main, installed one mile of 12-inch main, addressed 3,600 anomalies, rebuilt or replaced 51,000 meters, completed 121,000 service assessments and restored service within eight weeks of the storm.

NJ RISE is designed to help mitigate the impacts to NJNG’s system and customers from future extreme weather events. These upgrades would help minimize the number and duration of outages, improve NJNG’s ability to respond to and control service disruptions, and enhance the safety and reliability of its system.

During the hearing, Dock Road marina owner Deborah Murphy was the first to speak up.

“We’re very simple people here,” she said.

In layman’s terms, the LBI Reinforcement Project will run a pipe under Dock Road, which is a county road. The existing pipe that runs along Dock Road is 2 inches in diameter.

Property owners shared concerns about sewer interference, road blockages (“If I can’t get down the road, what happens to my business?” Murphy asked), gas explosions, environmental impact, and noise. In general, they don’t want to pay a price or make a sacrifice in order to help supply LBI with gas.

“I live there, and I don’t want to be hearing machinery late at night,” Dock Road resident Dave Fox said.

Britta Wenzel, executive director of Save Barnegat Bay, said she doesn’t feel the public need for the project is supported.

Margit Meisner-Jackson, a Division Street resident of over 50 years, pulled no punches.

“How many of these damn things do you have to do?” she asked. “LBI is not going to survive the next ‘Sandy’ or ‘Maria’ or whatever. What you really need to do is fix the pipes that are already in the ground.”

In response to fears about NJNG’s motives, Government Affairs Manager Amy Fitzgerald assured those in attendance that NJNG is a local distribution company as defined by the Board of Public Utilities. “There is no opportunity to do more than what we’re doing,” she said. “We don’t manufacture the gas; we purchase the gas from interstate gas lines.”

“Does LBI have a gas shortage now?” was the question posed by a Dock Road homeowner, clammer and shellfisherman Delaware Hood.

Right now, the only gas line feed to the Island is Route 72, was the answer. The new pipe would serve as a redundant main to the existing 12-inch main on 72.

The project has no estimated construction start date, Tanzi said. That would depend on approvals from other agencies.

Resident Joanne Alvare urged all in attendance to submit their written comments by the Oct. 12 deadline. Send letters to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres Program, Bureau of Legal Services and Stewardship; Mail Code 501-01; 501 East State St.; PO Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420.

— Victoria Ford


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