Navy fuel pipeline nears approval

The Navy will be replacing an aging jet fuel pipeline with a new pipeline that will run through the city of Oak Harbor and into Island County.

The pipeline is needed to carry jet fuel from the Seaplane Base north to the Ault Field Base of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The current pipeline is 60 years old and considered outdated.

The Oak Harbor City Council approved an easement agreement at the last council meeting to allow the construction of the new lines within the public right-of-way. The Navy will pay the city $9,125 for the easement.

The Island County commissioners are still in the process of considering an easement agreement. They recently met at a special meeting with Navy officials to go over technical details and separately with lawyers to consider the selling price of the easement.

The lines carry JP-8, a jet fuel with a flashpoint of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a less flammable and less hazardous fuel used by the Department of Defense for improved safety.

The current line runs generally along the side of Torpedo Road, Regatta Drive, Highway 20 and Ault Field Road; it will be abandoned in the ground. Oak Harbor Development Services Director Steve Powers said the new line will run along a similar but shortened route.

“The new pipeline will be a significant improvement over the line that exists today,” Powers said, pointing out that the modern line will meet a variety of new safety and environmental regulations and will include a monitoring system.

The new fuel line will be built in the middle of the road and will be buried from 5 to 8 feet deep to prevent accidental damage from excavators or other machines. It will run 2,020 linear feet in the city and 1,750 feet in the county.

Powers said the Navy is set to award the contract for the construction project by Oct. 1. He expects that the work would begin soon after.

City officials’ main concern about granting the easement was liability. Normally the city would require a franchise agreement before granting an easement for a utility. Such an agreement would indemnify the city in case of an accident, but federal law forbids the Navy from entering such an agreement.

The Washington Cities Insurance Authority recommended that the city obtain additional general liability and pollution insurance to cover the risk, which would cost an extra $30,000 to $55,000 a year. The Navy can’t legally help with the payments.

Nevertheless, the City Council members were very much in favor of the agreement.

“We need to support this. It is vital to the future of the Navy,” Councilwoman Beth Munns said.


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