NEW ORLEANS -- A pipeline to transfer petroleum products from St. Charles Parish to Mississippi is underway.
Evidence of that has been a barge working in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain for a little more than a month. It’s the beginning of the Parkway Pipeline project across southeast Louisiana.
“Very important energy infrastructure investment that's going to help develop the infrastructure necessary to transport New Orleans-based energy products across the country," said a spokesman for Kinder Morgan, the company constructing the pipeline, Allen Fore.
The pipeline will carry gasoline and fuel from the Valero Refinery in St. Charles Parish more than 140 miles to a storage site in Mississippi. Up to 200,000 barrels of petroleum products will stretch through the lake, as well as St. Tammany and Washington parishes daily. The $240 million project will leave a trail of economic development in its path, complete with more than 1,000 jobs.
"The local businesses here are gonna see a direct impact on those workers living here and spending money here. They'll be providing services to them," said Brenda Reine Bertus with St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation.
But not everyone was on board from the start.
“Always a concern," said Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission Director Carlton Dufrechou. "Lake Pontchartrain is a tremendous resource. Whenever anyone is talking about something that could potentially harm the ecology, it's a big concern, certainly with the Causeway Bridge, just as well."
However, lake and bridge advocates say the company has been considerate of concerns, while governments and civic organizations say it’s been transparent, paving the way for peaceful progress.
Once the work in the lake is done, likely in December, construction will begin on land, starting in Fontainebleu State Park, where construction will continue within the existing pipeline corridor from the lake to the park.
A directional drill to connect to the underwater pipeline has already been installed to prevent any damage to the shoreline or cabin area of the park.
Land clearing has also taken place through the park, with minimal disturbance to the area of utmost importance. Kinder Morgan says its main goal, other than increasing the efficiency of energy production in this region, is to leave the area used to do that in better shape than it was found.
The company hopes to have the pipeline in operation by this time next year.