Construction of one of two natural gas pipelines through Moffat County could begin within a few weeks.
Work on the pipelines, one being built by Entrega Gas Pipeline Inc. and one by El Paso Corp., was supposed to begin as early as July 1. But construction of the pipelines, which run from Rio Blanco County to Wyoming, passing through Moffat County, hasn't started.
Local officials, including Moffat County commissioners and the Chamber of Commerce director, voiced concerns in recent months that an influx of pipeline workers combined with hunting season would put a strain on housing. But a late start could mean hunters and pipeline workers aren't competing for housing, or are only competing for a few weeks.
Entrega Gas Pipeline Spoke-sman Denny Needham said work on the Entrega pipeline could start as early as next week, months after Entrega planned to start.
"We really hoped to start in June or July," Needham said.
Needham said crews will begin work on the pipeline near the Yampa River as soon as Entrega gets a notice to proceed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which Needham hopes comes next week.
FERC approval has been held up because of issues with archaeological sites along the pipeline's path, Needham said.
Entrega also needs an agreement with federal agencies before the project can begin, Needham said. He hopes to have the agreement within a week, as well.
The number of workers on Entrega's pipeline will peak about a month after work starts, Needham said. If work starts in the next two weeks, as Needham hopes, 800 Entrega workers will be in the region in early November. Rifle-hunting season for deer and elk starts Oct. 15 and ends Nov. 20.
Workers will live all over Northwest Colorado and Wyoming, Needham said.
The Entrega pipeline could be operational by February, Needham said.
El Paso Gas Spokesman Richard Wheatley said the El Paso pipeline won't start until Oct. 17 at the earliest, with work starting in Rio Blanco County and working toward Wyoming. The El Paso line will bring about 600 workers at its peak.
Like Entrega, El Paso is waiting on approval from FERC. Wheatley said there is an issue with how the El Paso project will affect archaeological sites, as well.
El Paso also needs an operating agreement between the company and state and federal agencies, which Wheatley said could come in October.
Wheatley said construction should be complete by January but is dependent on the landscape and weather.
If the influx of pipeline workers in Moffat County doesn't start until late October or early November, there will only be a few weeks when they are competing for housing with hunters.
Craig Chamber of Com-merce Director Annette Gianinetti said she has mixed feelings about the pipelines starting later than planned.
"I hate to see it for (the companies) because they are going to have a lot of issues with the weather," Gianinetti said. "But it wouldn't make it such a horrible crunch."
If pipeline crews are in town after hunters, Gianinetti said local businesses won't have as much difficulty accommodating everybody.
"We could take care of everybody that way," Gianinetti said.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or email@example.com.