Pipeline project turns rocky
Halted after damage to Ohio streams found
By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A year ago, environmentalists and landowners in southern
Ohio tried and failed to stop Marathon Ashland Petroleum's
149-mile underground pipeline project by saying that construction
would damage many of the 363 streams it would cross.
It turns out they may have been right.
Last week, officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers'
Huntington District halted construction with 40 miles
of trenching to go when inspections revealed violations
in a section running through the Richland Furnace State
Forest in Jackson County.
Inspectors said workers had dumped fill material into
waterways, failed to control sediment and erosion, and
did construction work outside the approved right-of-way.
"I hate to say we told you so, but we told you so,''
said Rick Sahli, the Columbus lawyer who represents Stop
the Ohio Pipeline.
The group is made up of residents of the Columbus area
and the scenic Hocking Hills of southeastern Ohio. It
battled the pipeline project for years before the Army
Corps issued the construction permit in July 2002.
The $100 million project will connect a Marathon storage
facility in Kenova, W.Va., to a terminal on the west side
of Columbus through a 14-inch pipeline, buried 4 feet
deep, that will be capable of carrying 80,000 gallons
of fuel a day - fuel the company says it needs for a growing
central Ohio market.
The line will snake under the Ohio River and up through
eight Ohio counties. Using a 1916 right-of-way, it will
pass through nature preserves and come close to the Hocking
Hills State Park and Hocking State and Wayne National
Last week's inspection of the pipeline project was the
fourth conducted by the Army Corps that found problems,
mostly dealing with soil erosion. Officials of the Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency also inspected various
points of the pipeline construction and found similar
Ohio River Pipe Line LLC - the Marathon Ashland subsidiary
that holds the permit - came to an agreement with the
Army Corps on an interim plan to clean up and repair the
damage along the right-of-way.
But the company cannot resume digging its trench and
laying pipeline until it submits a plan detailing how
it will comply with the construction permit's environmental
requirements. The pipeline company still has about 40
miles to go, including the section that runs through the
Hocking Hills, Ohio's second-largest tourist attraction
behind only the Lake Erie islands.
Company officials say they will do whatever it takes
to bring the project into compliance. About 100 of the
project's 600 employees and contractors work on compliance
issues. The company is going to double that number.
Chuck Minsker, a spokesman for the Huntington District
of the Army Corps, said officials will review the company's
plan and decide whether to reinstate, modify or revoke
Ohio River Pipe Line's permit.
"There's no way to say how long that process will
take,'' said Minsker.
Larry Menchhofer is one of the Hocking County property
owners whose land is being bisected by the pipeline. Last
fall, crews felling timber cut a 60-foot swath through
his land, a hilly expanse of meadows, creek gorges and
massive rock formations.
"I'm not at all surprised that (the company) has
not complied,'' Menchhofer said. "They've done very
little to control the erosion on my land.''
Sahli said the problems found in the inspections were
"That is why we argued against burying a pipeline
in very rugged terrain where the soil is so thin,'' Sahli
said. "It was just common sense.''