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 Construction Manager Dustin Bagwell talks about the construction portion of the pipeline project with members  of the  community.

Construction Manager Dustin Bagwell talks about the construction portion of the pipeline project with members of the community.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Plans for natural gas pipeline to pass through 3 communities

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 4, 2019

 A rendering of the proposed natural gas pipeline and the preliminary construction schedule was on display at the Consumers Energy meeting Jan. 29 at Shelby Gardens in Shelby Township.

A rendering of the proposed natural gas pipeline and the preliminary construction schedule was on display at the Consumers Energy meeting Jan. 29 at Shelby Gardens in Shelby Township.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA — The construction of a new steel natural gas line is quickly approaching for Shelby Township and Utica — as soon as May.

Consumers Energy recently held a second informational meeting at Shelby Gardens and Banquet Hall in Shelby Township regarding Consumers Energy’s South Oakland Macomb Network natural gas pipeline project. The pipeline has a proposed route that includes a section along the ITC Holdings Corp. corridor between 23 Mile and 26 Mile roads, from 23 Mile to Hall Road in Shelby Township, and under Hall Road in Utica, where it finally ends just after 19 Mile Road in Sterling Heights.

The pipeline is projected to cost a total of $200 million and to be constructed in 2019. Consumers Energy’s SOMN natural gas pipeline project is proposed to be 14 miles long with piping up to 24 inches in diameter, and will back up to the property lines of homes — some as close as 40 feet.

The proposed SOMN natural gas pipeline project will be replacing 29 miles of high-pressure pipeline near Farmington Hills that has been around since the 1940s. Consumers Energy officials said the project is being done to help Consumers Energy move more natural gas quickly, safely and efficiently.

“The existing pipeline that is being retired, there’s two separate pipelines: One is a 3100 pipeline that is transmission, and that is a 12-inch, and the 600 line that is coming down from the northwest. The reason it is being retired is because it was installed 70 years ago and because of urban encroachment — the houses are backing up to that, 10 to 20 feet off that line. For us to get in there with our equipment would be virtually impossible,” said Steven Schoenow, real estate acquisition project manager with Consumers Energy.

The project is going to be a four-phase series of projects down the ITC Holdings Corp. corridor that is proposed to be completed by 2022. Preparation work, such as surveying, is currently being done.

Phase one will begin in May and consist of 7.5 miles located in an existing ITC utility corridor in Shelby Township and Sterling Heights. ITC owns the corridor and the power lines, and Consumers Energy must follow its requirements.

Construction will end Oct. 31, and then hydrostatic testing will take place Nov. 15. The project is expected to be completed and in service by Dec.1.

Consumers Energy said that this project is being done because the older pipeline cannot supply enough natural gas for the population growth and demand.

According to Consumers Energy, most of the construction will take place during the day, and the loudest machine will be the drill, but other than that, it should not be very loud. The project will involve boring under roadways and the ground surface to place the pipelines.

The project will require some trees to be removed; however, Consumers Energy officials said that the ones that will come out will be labeled. They said they will try to keep as many of the trees that are already there as they can.

The top of the pipeline will be 4 or more feet from the surface.

The fact that the pipeline is steel or being put next to electrical power lines may make people wonder if it is safe to put it in the corridor or near homes.

Erwin Wietrick, a contractor for Consumers Energy, said that arcing is less likely to occur with the distance the pipeline is being placed away from the power lines.

Consumers Energy has done natural gas pipeline projects, such as the Saginaw Trail pipeline project, in the past.

Jim Sunday, the project manager for Consumers Energy, said digging would be the only cause of a leak, if one occurred. The pipelines are lined with zinc ribbons to ground them.

At the meeting, residents were able to see their properties on a map and what is planned for that area, which alleviated a lot of worries. The presenters at the meeting answered questions.

During the meeting, Consumers Energy workers explained to residents that any animals that are found during the construction will be removed and relocated to a safer area. If there are eggs that are found, they will be incubated until they are hatched and either placed back after the construction or in a safe area.

“If we find eggs in a nest, because we usually do construction during nesting season, we will put a pallet over it, and then we will take the eggs and incubate them so that we’re not harming them with equipment,” said Lindsey Johnson, the environmental engineer.

“We have a herpetologist on staff, his name is David Mifsud, and he will do a desktop study of any pipelines that we are putting in to make sure that we’re not in an area of threatened species, endangered species or species of concern. And so he will see if there are any of those in the area, and if there are, he will go out and walk the line and point out the areas of concern that might have a specific habitat, so that when we are going through there, he can be there to help us remove them if we find them,” said Johnson.

Consumers Energy will not be removing the old pipeline, which is 29 miles long.

It will be planting shrubs along the ITC corridor, between the property lines and the work area, that will be close to 2 feet tall. Most of the plantings will be closer to 25 Mile Road and must follow ITC’s regulations.

Consumers Energy will have to follow the regulations throughout the whole project.

For more information on the pipeline, call Consumers Energy at (989) 723-9755 or email