FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 29, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright



U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE APPROVES GEOTECHNICAL
TESTING ON WHEELER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

The U.S. Fish Wildlife Service has agreed to permit the Southern Natural Gas Company to conduct preliminary geotechnical testing on the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Alabama.

According to the Service's Acting Regional Director Marvin Moriarty, this preliminary testing is one step in a review process the Service is conducting while it considers the Company's request for a right-of-way across the refuge. The Service will consider the results of these tests in conjunction with other factors that include its long-standing policy of approving only those rights-of-way crossings within existing corridors on the 34,500-acre wildlife refuge that runs along the Tennessee River in Madison, Morgan and Limestone counties.

The permit issued August 29, 1997, specifies that Southern Natural Gas must first consider alternatives for crossing the refuge within existing corridors before it can conduct geotechnical tests in areas outside of existing corridors. The company had requested a permit to test near Triana, in an area where no right-of-way corridor presently exists. The Service has authorized the company to test here, but only after other tests are completed and evaluated in existing corridors and the Agency determines that these crossings are unfeasible.

The Service's District Manager for National Wildlife Refuges, Bill Grabill, commented that "Southern requested the permit to allow them to assess the feasibility of a pipeline crossing of the Tennessee River within the Wheeler Refuge." The Service can use these test results as part of the evaluation process in determining whether or not it should issue a right of way permit to the company for its proposed 16-inch natural gas pipeline that would supply natural gas to the cities of Decatur and Huntsville.

Grabill said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has certified the need for an additional natural gas pipeline in the Huntsville-Decatur area. He added, however, that in the best interests of the refuge, the Service is better equipped to determine the appropriate location and manner by which a pipeline might cross the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

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Release #: R97-78.


1997 News Releases

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