Construction on the Utopia Pipeline is expected to begin in March, according to Kinder Morgan, developer of the project.
Vice President of Public Affairs, Allen Fore said clearing of the right of ways in compliance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was scheduled to begin in February in surrounding areas, although there are not any affected lands in the Ashland area.
“Things are getting much closer to us being ready for construction,” Fore said. “I think that’s the big development.”
There are still 14 remaining tracts of land that Kinder Morgan needs to acquire rights to, although 13 have tentative agreements, Fore said. One landowner is challenging Kinder Morgan in Ashland County Common Pleas Court, however, Judge Ronald P. Forsthoefel ruled in favor in a judgment entry on Jan. 6, 2017. In the entry, Forsthoefel determined the Utopia pipeline will be a common carrier petroleum pipeline, a decision he made in earlier cases, he wrote.
Forsthoefel also determined that the pipeline will serve a public use and that the appropriation of property “is necessary to accomplishing that public use.”
The decision was appealed to the Fifth Appellate District Court by attorneys of the defendant opposing Kinder Morgan on Jan. 17.
Fore said the company was committed to “working through issues with landowners.”
“At the end of the day, the legal proceedings in our view are more of a continuation of a negotiation,” he said.
The pipeline is expected to run through 14 counties in Ohio, including Harrison, Carroll, Tuscarawas, Stark, Wayne, Ashland, Richland, Huron, Seneca, Sandusky, Wood, Henry, Lucas and Fulton. It is being built to connect an existing Kinder Morgan pipeline -- the Cochin pipeline -- to transport the byproduct of Utica shale from the southeastern part of Ohio to Windsor, Ontario.
The pipeline is expected to pass through Ruggles, Perry, Orange, Clear Creek and Jackson townships.
The company has not finalized a contractor for the construction of the pipeline, yet Fore mentioned the chance for “more activity in Ashland County related to the contractor.”
“I think what Ashland could see next, provided the contractor finalizes the (storage) yard that it’s looking at having here in Ashland County, is you would have equipment moving in and materials and things like that,” he said.
The headquarters for the project is currently based in Ashland.
Dylan Sams can be reached at 419-281-0581, ext. 240, and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dylan__sams.