City of Marquette selling easements to Semco

ANGELI

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission passed a resolution Monday that directs City Manager Mike Angeli to negotiate a sale of easements to Semco Energy Gas Co. for the utility’s plan to construct a nearly 43-mile long natural gas pipeline in Marquette County.

Semco recently requested easements from the city for building and operating the pipeline within city limits. The company will pay about $65,000 for the use of city land, according to city documents.

The pipeline, being called the Marquette Connector Pipeline, will consist of two segments. A 20-inch diameter line will run 36.2 miles from Arnold to Negaunee Township, near the M-35 and Marquette County Road 480 intersection. Farther east along County Road 480, that pipeline would also be connected to a 6.4-mile, 10-inch line running to Semco’s existing distribution system in the city of Marquette and provide a second connection point to Northern Natural Gas’ network, near Division Street and Pioneer Road.

The total project is anticipated to cost between $135 million and $140 million. Customer rates are expected to increase by about $4 per month for an average residential customer, according to Semco’s website.

Although a timeline for the project isn’t currently set, Commissioner Jenna Smith addressed concerns she said members of the Noquemanon Trail Network brought to her attention. Several trails managed by the NTN run adjacent to and in some cases across the property where the pipeline is planned to be constructed.

SMITH

“It sounds like there may be some impact on the NTN plans that are currently in place, so that’s something that should be thought about in the future,” she said. “They (the NTN) are worried about the timeline of construction and how it may impact different events they have on the premises, especially the Marquette Trails Fest, which is in June.”

Angeli said he’s been communicating with NTN members about the project.

“I’ve been speaking a little bit with the NTN, Cary Gottlieb, the chair, primarily about Parcel 13 because that’s the parcel we’ve thought about selling to the NTN,” he said. “I believe we’re in a comfortable area in regard to what Semco’s going to do there and what they’re going to allow.

“We’re doing everything we can at the city to make sure the impact of trails is the least amount possible. We’ve actually asked them (Semco) to move the pipeline path from the original area to the current snowmobile trail so we have an even lesser impact, and Semco has agreed to do that.”

Commissioner Jenn Hill asked when the utility will start tearing down trees and logging in the area.

HILL

“When is all of this going to be known … because I’m hearing people don’t know and don’t feel like they necessarily understand where things are going with this project,” she said. “Those trails are very carefully designed. And so, is Semco going to leave it as it found it, in terms of grading, because that’s a lot of work and money potentially being spent; how would that be mitigated if the grading did change afterward?”

Angeli said he’s confident Semco will update the city before projects begin.

“As far as the trails are concerned, the initial discussions I’ve had with Semco was that they were going to allow trails as they exist today,” Angeli said. “Now, I don’t know that they ever discussed the way they put it back … or if the NTN will do that.”

So far, the plan includes the clearing of tree limbs less than 5 inches in diameter and brush to be cleared from the easement strip and disposed of by burning, chipping or hauling. Trees and limb wood larger than 5 inches in diameter will be cut into around 100-inch lengths and piled on the edge of the easement strip, according to city documents.

The Marquette Connector Pipeline will serve nearly 35,000 Semco customers throughout the western Upper Peninsula. Presently, only one natural gas pipeline serves Semco’s customers in the western U.P., which is at capacity, according to Semco’s website.

Most of the land the pipeline will pass through is classified as rural forest and low-density residential. Over 80 percent of the pipeline follows, and is adjacent to, existing gas, electric and road right-of-way corridors.

Semco estimates that the pipeline will contribute about $22 million in tax revenue during the first 10 years the pipeline is in service.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.