Mount Airy officials have granted an easement for a natural gas line to cross the Ararat River and the greenway that runs alongside it, which are not expected to be adversely affected as a result.
However, the project by Frontier Natural Gas to extend the line underneath the river and trail is not set in stone, due to uncertainties as to whether it is even feasible.
“We’re going to attempt it,” Eric Burgess, construction supervisor for Frontier Natural Gas, said at a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last week when the 10-foot right of way and easement was approved.
The presence of “solid rock” at the proposed drill site could cause problems in getting the line through and possibly lead to the project being aborted, Burgess said.
Frontier Natural Gas already has a existing gas main that is located between the city public works building and the Ararat River. The new easement will extend 23 feet from the present one through municipal property to access the area under the river channel.
The company will use a site at the northeast corner of the public works building parking lot to bore underneath the river and the Ararat River Greenway in order to serve a business at 522 E. Pine St. That is the former site of a John S. Clark Co. facility which now is occupied by an auto paint and body shop.
“They really don’t know if it is feasible,” city Community Development Director Martin Collins said of the drilling project by Frontier Natural Gas, “but they have made a commitment to serve as many customers as they can in the city.”
Collins pointed out that Frontier has worked successfully with the city on other projects, including one to extend gas service to Westwood Industrial Park.
“For the time I’ve been with the city, they’ve been a very good partner.”
City staff members with the public works and recreation departments are satisfied with the gas-line easement agreement since it incorporates changes they recommended.
These include ensuring that there is no disturbance of the surface at the greenway or at the river. Frontier Natural Gas will be required to directionally drill the line underneath both to a depth that is 4 to 5 feet below the existing grade.
Another staff recommendation calls for limiting the time the gas company occupies the public works parking lot since one of its entrances will be blocked during construction.
The company also will resurface any disturbed driveway area with plant mix asphalt.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.