EATON TWP. — Residents in the southern part of the county are questioning plans to take portions of their property for the construction of a natural gas pipeline.
Stanley Wiechowski, 37871 Royalton Road, Grafton, said easement plans were dropped off at his residence last week informing him part of his property will be used for construction and staging of a nearly 20-mile-long pipeline that will feed the NRG Energy plant on Lake Road in Avon Lake.
According to Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka, the pipeline will make a reality of the plant’s plans to convert from coal to natural gas. The former owner of the plant, Genon Energy Inc., announced in 2013 it was closing because new EPA standards aimed at reducing mercury output levels at coal burning power plants weren’t feasible.
Zilka said the power plant also went through a devaluation process beginning in 2009, which diminished the plant’s value from about $65 million to $16 million as of October.
According to previous Chronicle-Telegram reports, the devaluation reduced tax funding for Avon Lake Schools by more than $1 million and the city, library, Lorain County Joint Vocational School and other county entities would lose more than $500,000 combined. The schools then passed a 10-year, 8.28-mill levy to bring in additional revenue, which still wasn’t enough to cover losses that would be realized over a 10-year span.
When the company announced it would remain open through natural gas conversion after Genon Inc. was purchased by NRG Energy, Zilka said residents were not happy.
“Residents were furious, and some people wanted to reschedule the vote and take their money back,” Zilka said.
But Zilka said the pipeline is vital to keeping the power plant open and salvaging some of the lost revenue caused by the devaluation and other state funding cuts.
But now the prospect of a pipeline is causing some residents in the southern end of Lorain County to question the proposed route.
Wiechowski said he has 3.5 acres with 240 feet of frontage and the paperwork he received says a 50-foot easement of his property is needed and another 50-foot temporary easement is also required for a staging area.
“There’s a farmer’s field next to me that has absolutely nothing there,” Wiechowski said. “Yet they want my property for a drop-off point for pipes and workers to park.”
Wiechowski said he isn’t against the 24-inch, high-pressure pipeline, but he wants to know more about the plans.
“What we’re handed is official paperwork that needs a signature to go ahead with the pipeline,” Wiechowski said. “But to me, it didn’t look like much planning. There was no meeting, committee, notice, or anything. They just dropped off the papers.”
Paul Rickey, who lives on Deer Run Drive in the Flint Ridge neighborhood in Eaton Township, said the pipeline is following a utility corridor for miles, but he said for an unknown reason it deviates from the corridor and juts around Flint Ridge.
“They’re making an abrupt left-hand turn and heading west right through my side yard,” Rickey said. “Then they pick up the utility corridor again and go right under Route 10. The utility corridor goes right through the subdivision, but for some reason they aren’t using it.”
David Gaier, spokesman for NRG, said there is not yet a finalized pipeline route. NRG is in the initial stages of obtaining right-of-way easements for the pipeline, he said.
“We’re working on getting the easements or rights-of-way,” Gaier said. “It isn’t absolutely determined yet where the pipeline will go, that’s what we’re working on. The exact placement of the pipeline has not yet been determined because that depends on obtaining the right-of-ways.”
Gaier echoed Zilka’s sentiments, saying the pipeline is crucial to keeping the NRG plant in Avon Lake open.
“Without the pipeline we can’t do the gas conversion,” he said.
Gaier said NRG intends to have the plant converted to natural gas for commercial operation by April 2016.
“We’re in the stages of developing a route, which is crucial to the project,” Gaier said. “We would like to get the support of the community to keep this project moving forward, to keep the plant in operation, which will result in retaining jobs and maintaining a significant portion of the tax base.”