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Gas pipeline could serve 700 Sterling properties

Posted: January 28, 2014 - 11:51pm  |  Updated: January 29, 2014 - 12:13am

ENSTAR Natural Gas Company plans to begin work on a Sterling pipeline within a few weeks to hookup hundreds of properties with natural gas.

The project will extend an existing pipeline under the Kenai River to serve Funny River Road properties on the south side of the river.

John Sims, business development director for ENSTAR said the company plans to begin the project by the third week in February and finish the river portion of the project within two weeks. The portion of the project under the river priced at $1.3 million is funded by a state grant.

Sims said there are about 700 total properties that ENSTAR could potentially serve.

The building out of the pipeline to serve property owners, if approved, will be funded by utility special assessment districts.

“There are two utility special assessment districts being proposed on the (south) side of the river,” Sims said. “And that’s what the bore of the Kenai (River) is attempting to get to.”

The districts are still in the early stages of formation, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said. The project will come before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in March.

Navarre said there has to be a 70 percent approval rate of the USAD by the property owners to move forward.

“If people have houses and live there year round, it’s a cost benefit for them for converting to gas,” Navarre said. “It would be significant savings. … For people who have vacant lots that they have to pay for don’t really get the benefit of it until they build on it.”

So far the borough only has estimates for Funny River West with the 264 parcels assessed at $3,549 per lot, Navarre said.

Boring for the project will begin at Huske Street near Betty Lou Drive and Duncan Drive, Sims said. Then it will extend about 1,000 feet below the Kenai River’s riverbed at a minimum of 20 feet below the riverbed.

He said the largest risk with a horizontal directional drilling project is if there is a significant amount of impenetrable bedrock, and if that were the case the project would be shut down.

“Thankfully, due to the previously proposed bridge in the same (Kenai River) area, there are existing drilling logs and the risk of significant bedrock is low,” he said.

He said horizontal directional drilling under the Kenai River is the most cost effective say to serve the Funny River Road area.

The 6-inch wide pipeline will be made out of plastic. Sims said that is standard for pipelines smaller than 8 inches and it is less corrosive and easier to work with than other materials.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at

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KASchmidt 01/29/14 - 05:53 pm

Utility special assessment districts (USADs) are tricky, so property owners should find out ALL the facts BEFORE they sign a petition for a special assessment district.

Because once a petition gets enough signatures THERE IS NO WAY OUT FOR ANY OF THE PROPERTY OWNERS IN THE USAD. The Borough has NO way for property owners to take their name off the petition.

Here are some of the problems that I have seen:

1. Property owners will not only be charged the estimated cost to their property ($3,549) but also interest and finance charges if they don't pay the whole estimated cost right away. They are not told the details of these extra costs up front in the petition.

2. The estimated cost might not be the ACTUAL cost approved by the Borough Assembly. So before you sign a petition, you must carefully review Borough documentation. If the Borough doesn't guarantee that the cost will be a certain amount, then what will the actual assessment be?

3. Make sure it is in writing on the petition what the State grant amount will be, and that your assessment won't go up if the grant doesn't materialize. Don't just accept some vague promise of a grant by an Enstar employee in this newspaper article. I have seen cases where people were told in writing by the petition gatherers that Enstar would contribute to the cost, in order to get them to sign the petition. The property owners only found out AFTER the Borough levied the special assessment that Enstar was not contributing anything to the cost. When the property owners tried to challenge the USAD in court because of this lie by the petition gatherers, the judge ruled against the property owners.

4. If the property owner in the USAD gets behind in paying the cost, the Borough can foreclose on their property and the property owner can lose their property. Every year the Borough foreclosure list that is published in the Clarion (coming soon) has the list of properties that are being foreclosed on because the property owner got behind in paying off their USAD assessment. Once the Borough gets a judgment of foreclosure, it can sell your property at public auction, the minimum bid is the USAD charge.

5. The USAD laws are very strict, in favor of the government and against the property owner. So don't think you will have a chance to win a challenge against the USAD in court.

6. Tom Wagoner lost his Senate seat in part because he was against Enstar getting their gas line to Homer subsidized up front. He thought this was bad public policy, since the other public utilities had to pay for their infrastructure themselves, then recoup the costs through charges.

Kristine A. Schmidt

Bluebell 01/29/14 - 11:18 pm
Gas Pipeline to East End USAD is too expensive

The property owners within the Funny River East End USAD have not been fully informed about the proposed gas line costs. How can anyone be comfortable agreeing to bringing the pipeline in when the full costs are not known? It's like writing a blank check to Enstar.

Under the proposal, property owners of undeveloped land have to pay the same amount for the gas line as year-round residents even though owners of undeveloped land receive no benefit from the gas line until they develop their property.

Enstar should absorb the full costs and get reimbursement as property owners connect to the line, similar to the electric utility in Funny River. If there are not enough property owners who want to connect to the gas line to make it profitable for Enstar, the gas line extension should not be built at this time.

If approved, this project would cause financial hardship to property owners who have to find funds for this improvement. Some could lose their property if they can't pay for the gas line.

For these reasons, I do not support the East end USAD for the natural gas pipeline.

Beth Astley, property owner in Funny River East End USAD

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