City-wide pipe project starts next week

Officials will alert community of areas under construction

DAN DOUCET, Evergreen opinion editor

Avista will spend $4 million to replace natural gas pipelines in Pullman starting next week.

Edward Ranck-Copher, a Pullman Public Works engineering technician, said the work will encompass most of the city as the company replaces existing pipe with new pipe in 34 stages of construction. He said it includes areas such as College Hill and the airport.

“It’s going to be scattered throughout town,” Ranck-Copher said.

Avista has completed an environmental impact study and gone through everything they need to start the project, he said, which will last several months. He said he believes it will end in fall or early winter.

Paul Kimmell, the Avista regional business manager for the Palouse, said the project in Pullman is part of a 20-year plan that started in 2011 to replace over 700 miles of gas pipe. Within Pullman alone, he said, they will replace about 9.5 miles of pipeline. Kimmell said Avista regularly tests and replaces its infrastructure for durability.

Avista contracts through NPL Construction, which will have two or three crews working in stages to complete the project. Kimmell said the crews will work in bite-size sections, and each stage of the project will cover a small piece of pipeline at a time, usually about a quarter mile.

“They’ve been doing this for a couple of years,” he said, “they kind of have the system down.”

Natural gas pipelines are typically buried off the side of the street, Kimmell said, but there will be some traffic control measures, such as flaggers and signs. However, there will not be any street closures and crews will try to maintain normal traffic flow, he said.

“It won’t be just outright blocking the street,” Kimmell said.

Avista sent out notification letters about the construction to all its customers, he said, and they will distribute door tags and give phone calls to people in neighborhoods that will be affected. Kimmell said any gas outages will be minimal.

Avista and the City of Pullman are also working together on social media to alert people about where they are working, Kimmell said.