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School Board Set to Approve PG&E Gas Pipe Replacement at Edna Maguire

Some residents are frustrated over “rush job” just one month after being told that replacement wasn't happening; utility giant seeks easement for work to begin July 23.

The board is set to give the green light Wednesday to that runs through the campus, a move planned to coincide with the , which began earlier this month.

PG&E is seeking a 30-foot easement along the approximately 600 feet of pipe through the Edna campus. The pipe would be moved away from the buildings of the new campus and toward the school’s new parking lot, according to district officials.

PG&E’s schedule calls for the pipe project to begin July 23 and wrap up by August 20. PG&E Gas Superintendent Jonathan Little said the utility giant was seeking approval from the city of Mill Valley to extend its work days and hours to six days a week and 12 hours a day in order to finish the replacement sooner than that.

Little assured neighbors that PG&E was not replacing the current 10-inch pipe with a new 12-inch pipe because of safety concerns about it. Despite the pipe’s age, he said it operates at a significantly lower pressure – 60 pound-force per square inch (psi) compared to the 450psi pipe in San Bruno, where September 2010 explosion, which happened after an unexpected gas pressure surge ruptured a substandard weld, with the blast and resulting fire killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

“This piece of pipe does not need to be replaced – this is not about safety,” Little said. “This is about more capacity. Long after I retire, Mill Valley might develop more, and we want to accommodate that.”

Dana Rieger, a resident of Lois Court just north of the Edna Maguire campus and the northern edge the pipeline being replaced, said at the board's June 20 meeting that she was told by district officials just five weeks ago that the pipe wasn’t being replaced.

“We’ve got to do better with neighbors,” Rieger said. “We shouldn’t just have to come here and hear about it in a third-hand way, especially an issue of this magnitude.”

District officials said the PG&E project gained momentum late last month, and PG&E said things had changed, but wouldn’t specify exactly what.

“This is a rush job,” Little admitted. “Normally we plan our work the prior year.”

The project appears to have been jump-started by some Edna neighbors lobbying state Attorney General Kamala Harris, state Senator Mark Leno, state Assemblyman Jared Huffman and Marin County Supervisor Kate Spears, all of whom Edna neighbor Anne Gates said were instrumental in urging PG&E to replace the pipeline.

At the same time that PG&E’s intent to replace the pipe became public, so did its that it had not surveyed the pipe for gas leaks in 2011 as required. The CPUC has not yet determined if PG&E will face a penalty for the self-reported violation, according to spokesperson Terrie Prosper.

The company planned to minimize service disruptions during the project, PG&E officials said, noting that the company usually back-feeds its service from other lines to minimize the impact on residents.

The Edna Maguire campus closed June 15 when school ended. Since then, crews moved materials and supplies into storage units in advance of the modular classrooms that will be installed on Alto Field. Those classrooms will be delivered in the first week of July. Amidst the buzz of activity on the Edna campus, . That training continues Tuesday and Thursday with a controlled burn using wood and hay in the school’s front office.

The existing school will be , according to Tim Ryan, the district’s director of maintenance and operations. The school board is also set Wednesday to approve a deal with Overaa Construction to build the new school for a maximum cost of $30.5 million.

MarinT June 26, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Not only Edna neighbors were concerned about the 73 year-old pipe with only between 3 and 4 feet of groundcover remaining in place while a $30 million dollar new school was being built right-over the top of it. Several citizens living a fair distance away thought it wise to change that reality. They hoped for Change and they got it. And the School, PG&E, Anne Gates, and the County, State and Local officials deserve credit for doing their part.

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