Many Rivers to Cross

BY: Jason Howd

No matter which side of the issue you're on, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and its transportation have become a scorching topic here in the Northwest. Presidential candidates have been asked about it. Governor Kulongoski has been anxious over it. And communities statewide have rejected it.

After a proposed pipeline for LNG produced public howls in Clatsop County and Colombia County, another, the so-called Palomar Pipeline, which will flow straight through the Mount Hood National Forest, is generating the same heat.

LNG, a methane gas that has been cooled for high-density transport, is produced in places like Indonesia, Russia and the Middle East and would be used here in the United States as a supposed alternative to dirtier forms of energy.

On Tuesday, local enviro-group BARK took WWire to a special Orange Alert protest along a proposed LNG pipeline. On OR Highway 224, about 10 miles east from Estacada, my chauffeur and I met up with several other concerned anti-LNGers stationed on the side of the highway.

From there, we slipped along muddy non-paths to meet with six hiker/campers who have been trekking directly along the proposed LNG path in order to do their own version of surveying. After rolling through wetlands, ascending mountains and traversing trailless wilderness, the protesters held a press event by rafting across the swift flowing Clackamas to continue on the path.

“This pipeline plan could jeopardize major trust building," says Amy Harwood, one of the protesting hikers and a BARK staff member. "It’s huge. And when you talk about clearcutting forests like this, that the kind of thing that people get really upset about.”

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has told us that they will be amending certain designations in order to complete the project,” Harwood says, adding that this pipeline will go through what is called a “late successional reserve” and would call for clearcutting about 100 feet of old growth along its path.

“A clear-cut isn’t acceptable in an LSR because it’s a designation of forest that is to be protected for its old growth characteristics. LSR is something that came out of the NW Forest Plan. It was a trust building piece in terms of history with environmentalists and the Forest Service coming to some common ground about forests that should be protected,” Harwood says.

From this point in the forest the LNG pipeline would cross the Oak Grove fork, then from Timothy Lake head north and end at the McCubbins OHV play area.

According to BARK and Columbia Riverkeeper, the proponents of the plan, NW Natural, NorthernStar Natural Gas and TransCanada, are not planning to make this a development for Oregonians to acquire cheaper energy, but will head straight through the state and on to California. That state, by the way, has rejected such pipelines.

Henry Morse, TransCanada project manger for the Palomar line, says that although some of the gas may go to California, much of it will be used here in the Northwest. "The way the market works is that no one will know where the gas is going until the day before. If California is willing to pay more, say in summer when the Northwest isn't using as much, they will be able to get it. It will vary from day to day depending on the use in this area."

Morse also said that the "so-called" clearcutting will indeed be around 100 to 120 feet throughout the proposed area but more than half of that will be replanted, leaving an estimated 23 feet of open pathway for the pipeline.

The hikers continue on through the weekend following the proposed trail winding up at Timothy Lake. On Saturday evening Bark will host a BBQ-style dinner and campfire with family-friendly entertainment to encourage dialogue about the pipeline, as well as sharing stories from the route. For more information, go to