Determine price, then ask who’ll pay
Your editorial of March 25 on the Banner Mountain pipeline raises a valid question about who will pay, but it is a bit premature. Before we can decide who will pay, we must know the price.
Right now NID is discussing many alternative routes for their pipeline. They have been told by their EIR consultant that they cannot designate any one as the “preferred” route at this point. In order to decided on a route, the NID board will need to have detailed information on the costs and impacts of all the alternatives. It may turn out that your implied assumption that it will be more expensive to use the existing county roads and utility corridors is incorrect. Certainly that is the shorter route and there are alternatives to pumping (such as using a deep trench for the highest stretch of the route). On the other hand, the route formerly designated as preferred presents a lot of unknown engineering and legal problems that could result in costly delays and could be more expensive in the long run.
But even though we don’t have all the facts, let’s engage in some hypotheticals for a moment. Assume one route causes a significant amount of damage to 200 parcels, while another may mean more people are temporarily inconvenienced but causes no long-term changes to the area through which the pipeline passes. Let’s further assume that the less-destructive route costs $1 million more. The pipeline is supposed to last 50 years. Let’s assume for the sake of round numbers that it will serve 10,000 customers. That means it will cost each customer $2 more per year to do the job right. Compare that to placing the entire burden on those 200 property owners whose trees will be cut and whose land will be taken by the government. It could easily cost them tens of thousands of dollars each in uncompensated losses in property value, and they will not even benefit from the project. Which do you think that is more fair?
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