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Decision on OSU Wetlands Pipeline Route Could Come Within Months

The controversial plan to build a natural gas pipeline under wetlands near Ohio State University got another public hearing Tuesday night. Columbia Gas proposes the pipeline run underneath OSU's Olentangy River Wetlands Research Park. Opposition to the project has been intense. The Sierra Club mounted a grassroots campaign to sway public opinion against the company's preferred pipeline route. Then in early December OSU announced its opposition to the route as well. Ohio State says the potential risk of harmful impacts to the wetlands is too great and it denied Columbia Gas' easement request. Wetlands Director William Mitsch said he was pleased with the university's decision, but… "…we also understand that that's a battle, not the war if I can use that metaphor," Mitsch says. The new pipeline would replace an aging one. Columbia Gas was required to submit a preferred route - which it says is the one under the wetlands -- and an alternate. The Ohio Power Siting Board has the final say as to what route it will take. Company Spokesman Ken Stammen says Columbia Gas is willing to build the pipeline according to the Siting Board's determination. "We still believe that the preferred route is the least impactful for the community and that we can certainly construct that route without doing any environmental harm. But we're sensitive to some of the concerns that have been raised and so we're fully prepared to build on the alternate route if that's what the board decides," Stammen says. A decision could come in the next few months. The Power Siting Board holds another public meeting at the Public Utilities Commission on January 18th. Wetlands Director William Mitsch: "They’re still going to have a hearing on the 18th and that's the meeting apparently where they decide what's really going on. It's still playing out," Mitsch says.