Pacific Gas and Electric Co. earlier this month decided to pursue construction of a backup pipeline along a different route through the Sacramento Delta to link its major underground storage facility with its backbone transmission pipeline system. If the permitting and construction proceed as planned, the added link could be operational in November 2006, the utility said Friday.

PG&E’s gas utility called the proposal to construct Line 57C to complement its existing 17-mile Line 57B “a significant storage reliability project,” and one that it plans to proceed with “immediately” to gain permitting, obtain materials and contract for the new line’s construction. The McDonald Island underground storage facility currently has only one pipeline link to the northern California transmission pipeline system.

The current line runs through part of the Sacramento River Delta that the utility said is “subject to increasing concerns about the stability of the Delta levee system.” As a 6.2-mile link taking a different route to the backbone pipeline system, the proposed Line 57C will be 24 inches in diameter.

PG&E said the California State Lands Commission will be the lead agency for the California Environmental Quality Act review (CEQA). With what it called “timely” CEQA review and permitting, PG&E’s utility transmission pipeline operators anticipate beginning construction next summer.

Although it did not estimate the overall cost of the project at this time, PG&E said that because of its “Gas Accord III” settlement has fixed its transmission rates through 2007, the utility expects Line 57C costs to be addressed in the utility’s next gas transmission/storage rate case, but it did not specify when that might be.

The utility said the project is another effort to “raise the bar on storage service reliability,” and updates on future construction plans will be provided through the Pipe Ranger Internet-based network.

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