FALMOUTH — A spokesman for Summit Natural Gas on Tuesday confirmed that despite its original plans, the company will not lay pipeline west of Interstate 295 in Falmouth this year.
But he said the company’s piping plans elsewhere in the region are intact for 2014.
Mike Duguay, Summit’s director of business development, said that the breadth of this year’s installation is smaller than originally proposed for a variety of reasons, including unexpected permitting issues and a shortage of contractors who are qualified to drill lateral bores under the interstate highway.
Duguay said the new goal constitutes a “right-sized plan” for the construction season and doesn’t mean the company is scaling back its goal of connecting gas service to about 7,700 customers in Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth within five years.
“This is still an incredibly significant project,” he said of this year’s schedule. “We’ve just made some corrections.”
Duguay said the company was unable to use some right-of-ways along the planned route because of existing utilities and permitting problems. The pipeline will be diverted under roadways in those cases, which increases construction time.
Also, this year’s installation calls for several crossings, across the highway and intertidal waters, which require special skills.
“There’s only so many people that do these drillings,” he said. “We’re essentially using as many contractors as there are up here.”
Duguay said the areas east of Interstate 295 in Falmouth and Cumberland and Yarmouth form a “critical backbone” for the pipeline and are priorities for the limited number of available contractors.
Duguay added that a Falmouth crossing at Lunt Road was scheduled for later in the year, but would have been too late to provide service to customers before the start of the heating season, so the delay is immaterial.
A revised map of the project will be available later this month, Duguay said.
Groundbreaking on the project began early last month. Installation of the pipeline has extended beyond Cumberland Fairgrounds – where the pipeline ties into its main supply line – and is moving gradually eastward on Tuttle Road. As of Friday afternoon, about one mile of pipeline had been laid beyond the fairground property.
“We’ve made great progress,” Duguay said. “It’s going extremely well.”
In April, during an informational meeting at Town Hall, Duguay told residents that it’s difficult to guarantee a completion date. The rate of installing distribution lines can vary between 200 and 1,000 feet per day, he said.
He warned that the company doesn’t want “anyone to disable (an existing) heating system and make it inoperable,” until the pipeline is operational.
In the original scope of this year’s installation, distribution lines in Falmouth were planned for Lunt Road, part of Falmouth Road to Town Hall, and part of Woodville Road to the town schools.
The entire project, which includes laying 1.2 million feet of pipe in the three towns, is expected to take up to five years.