SAN ELIZARIO, Texas - Some lower valley residents are still concerned about safety and water issues in the wake of a settlement allowing construction of a natural gas pipeline to continue.
Work on the Comanche Trail Pipeline, being built by Energy Transfer Partners, is back in progress after the restraining order issued in November was lifted Monday. The company agreed to a $5.4 million settlement with the El Paso Water Improvement District 1 and the Federal government, and to more stringent requirements on the remaining pipeline work.
"I wouldn't consider it a victory," said Maya Sanchez, Mayor of San Elizario, where thee pipeline will pass through. "I think it is a little less of a blow."
The government feared the installation of the pipeline at a depth of 10 feet under the Franklin Canal could result in the collapse of the canal or damage to the pipeline, the El Paso water supply, or residents in the vicinity. "Such damage would be irreparable as the water could not be recovered and loss of life cannot be restored," the restraining order stated. Earlier this year, a canal collapsed after the company drilled under it during irrigation season.
THE PIPELINE'S PATH
The settlement agreement sets more stringent standards for construction of the pipeline under canals. And Water Improvement District General Manager Jesus Reyes said with those in place and with Energy Transfer Partners now working with his staff, he was pleased with the situation now.
"I'm quite happy the way things turned out," Reyes said. "We assured ourselves that Comanche Trail Pipelines would come to the table, meet with us, follow our plans on our licensing procedures, and assuring the community that we're going to try to make this pipeline as safe as possible."
A spokesman for Energy Transfer Partners emailed ABC-7 a statement in response to the settlement. "We are happy that the issue has been resolved. We can now move forward with the final two canal crossings and complete construction in a timely manner. We are on schedule to have the pipeline in service in January," the company stated.
Reyes estimated the pipeline was already 85 percent completed through our area, with just the canal crossings and some of the surrounding area work remaining. He said the crossing under the Rio Grande into Mexico had already been completed. That leaves Sanchez with concerns from residents about the pipeline under fields and affecting the water supply.
"We have safety precautions in specific areas of this pipeline that may help to a degree, but the whole of the project within our region was not affected," Sanchez said. "It's a very small percentage of the pipeline that's going to be affected. And so the concerns remain."