FALMOUTH, Maine — The first phase of a $42 million natural gas distribution project is imminent, but it’s still unknown when residents will be able to begin using the fuel in their homes.
That was the takeaway from an informational meeting held Thursday, April 17, at Town Hall by Summit Natural Gas. Fewer than 10 residents attended the nearly two-hour presentation and discussion. The company is planning more meetings in the near future, including a presentation to address safety concerns.
Mike Duguay, director of business development for Summit, said the company’s goal is to install the project “backbone” before the next heating season, but it’s difficult to guarantee a completion date. The rate of installing distribution lines can vary between 200 and 1,000 feet per day, he said.
In the meantime, the company doesn’t want “anyone to disable (an existing) heating system and make it inoperable,” Duguay said.
Installation will begin in Cumberland near the county fairgrounds and move east to Route 88. From there, installation will continue north to Yarmouth and south to Falmouth.
In this year’s first phase, distribution lines in Falmouth will occur on portions of Route 88, Johnson Road, the business section of U.S. Route 1, Lunt Road, part of Falmouth Road to Town Hall, and part of Woodville Road to the town schools.
In 2015 and 2016, the work will extend into other neighborhoods. The entire project, which includes laying 1.2 million feet of pipe in the three towns, is expected to take between three and five years.
The project will be “more intensive in the first year,” Duguay said. The company will be installing 12-inch, high-density pipe 3 feet below the road surface by digging narrow trenches.
Duguay said the impact on traffic could be “significant,” but the lasting benefits outweigh the inconveniences, particularly considering that the distribution lines will generate revenue for the town as taxable properties. The widespread availability of natural gas in Nova Scotia and parts of the Northeast also hold the potential for less expensive heating bills, he said.
Assistant Town Manager Amy Lamontagne said the town researched traffic impacts from similar projects in Augusta, Colorado and Wyoming. Lamontagne also witnessed construction firsthand last summer in Waterville.
“It wasn’t that bad,” she said.
During an hour-long question-and-answer period, residents asked about the particular challenges of installing gas lines on their properties, the financial stability of the company and how long gas supplies might last.
Duguay said the Marcellus gas fields along the Appalachian Mountains range are predicted to produce natural gas for the next 100 years.
Colorado-based Summit has projected 86 percent saturation in the three communities within five years, or nearly 7,700 customers.