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Consumers Energy to begin pipeline replacement project this month

Starting this month, 55 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline is being replaced by Consumers Energy in Washtenaw, Livingston, Ingham, Shiawassee and Clinton counties.

Consumers Energy construction is scheduled to start in May on the first phase of the Mid-Michigan Pipeline project, which is designed to improve safety and reliability.

Phase 1 & 2 of the pipeline replacement project.

The planned construction route for the first phase covers 30 miles from Chelsea to Williamston, briefly passing through or near portions of:

• The 21,000-acre Waterloo State Recreation Area in Washtenaw County.

• The 11,000-acre Pinckney Recreation Area in Livingston and Washtenaw counties.

• The 1,100-acre Unadilla State Wildlife Area.

• The Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park, a 34-mile linear trail created from abandoned railroad corridor that stretches between Ingham and Livingston counties and managed by the Pinckney Recreation area.

• The 4.7-mile Chelsea to Stockbridge Corridor of the Border to Border Trail managed by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (WCPARC).

The two-phase, $550 million project will replace vintage 20-inch pipeline dating back to the 1940s with new 36-inch pipeline that is part of the Natural Gas Delivery Plan, a 10-year road map to a system that utility officials say will be “even more safe, reliable, affordable and clean.”

The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved the project for Consumers Energy, which owns the property easement rights that legally provide the space to construct, replace and maintain a natural gas pipeline.

Utility officials say that in some cases, they will need to secure additional work space through easement rights from neighboring property owners to ensure they can complete the project safely.

As for questions about what kind of work will be done in the various parks impacted by the project, Consumers Energy says they plan to replace existing pipeline running north along the east edge of Waterloo State Receation Area and the west edge of Pinckney Recreation Area (see map).

Detail of Phase 1 of the Mid-Michigan natural gas pipeline replacement project, as it passes through the Waterloo State Recreation Area and Pinckney Recreation Area.

The utility will use “parallel construction” to install the new pipeline alongside the existing line, which will remain buried. Crews consisting of both Consumers Energy employees and the main construction contractor will install the new, larger line.

“All employees and contractors will be clearly identified and wearing personal protective equipment, including reflective vests to ensure visibility,” states a press release. “You’ll also see a variety of heavy equipment and vehicles needed for the work. Please stay alert for both workers and machines during construction.”

As for protecting the environment and local wildlife during the project, Consumers Energy says it has completed a detailed environmental inventory of the project area – including all wetlands, and stream crossings – and is working with applicable federal, state and local agencies to consider all environmental concerns.

Meanwhile, with the help of Eastern Michigan University, the utility says it conducted a study to ensure endangered and protected species of bats won’t be present during construction.

In addition, “environmental inspectors will work onsite daily during construction to identify and protect any threatened or endangered species and their habitats. They also will help ensure all conservation measures are met to reduce potential impacts on other wildlife.”

While trees will be removed during the work, Consumers Energy says it plans to mitigate the environmental impact by working with the MDNR team to carefully select the trees that must be removed and to determine how, where and when to plant the appropriate replacements.

“We plan to begin removing trees this winter to remove habitat that may attract endangered species of bats and to prevent the spread of oak wilt, an aggressive fungus that impairs the flow of water to the tree’s canopy and leaves “ said the utility. “This disease kills thousands of oak trees each year in forests and communities throughout Michigan. Infected trees need to be disposed of in a manner that prevents further infections.”

Phase 1:
Chelsea to Williamston, 30 miles

Phase 2:
Williamston to Ovid, 25 miles

Complete details can be found online at: www.ConsumersEnergy.com/MidMichPipeline

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