County, City, Authority respond
Lowndes County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Slaughter spoke at the County’s regular session Tuesday night about the issue, informing the public of the efforts made by Sabal Trail to make contact with area residents, and addressing a number of telephone calls fielded from those residents.
“Lowdnes County has been notified as well as all the governmental entities impacted by this project,” Slaughter said. “Lowndes County does not benefit from this proposal and has no responsibility for the approval other than that of a property owner potentially impacted by the proposed route.”
City Manager Larry Hanson received word of the project by mail Tuesday, he said. The letter appears to simply inform the City that the project may be happening—that it is still “speculative.”
“There are a lot of questions to be answered,” Hanson said. “Naturally, if it’s in our right-of-way, then we will have an active role in negotiations. There are all sorts of public and private utilities located in public right-of-ways, and we will manage that to ensure compatibility. There’s a lot of detail that has to be discussed.”
Hanson called the project “unprecedented,” but said he is sure “something about it makes economic sense.” Pipelines are common in the Midwest, but he still believes Sabal Trail’s is a “unique request.”
According to the map the City received along with the mailer, it appears the pipeline could extend mostly through the north portion of the County, possibly crossing Bemiss Road and passing near the water treatment plant in Freedom Park.
The City currently has natural gas infrastructure, but nothing of this magnitude, Hanson said.
Authority Executive Director Andrea Schruijer believes it is a little premature to announce plans for negotiation or opinions about the project, she said, but shared that the Authority would likely seek to cooperate with Sabal Trail.
“We own a tract of land, and they want to survey it,” Schruijer said. “They made no announcements of coming to Valdosta. We’ve been contacted just like individual land owners to survey our property.”
Sabal Trail made the request to survey 22 acres near Mud Creek, a tract owned by the Industrial Authority. Due to the Authority’s interest in bringing industry to Valdosta, Schruijer predicts the board will be in favor of the project.
“We’ll give them permission,” Schruijer said. “Why wouldn’t we?”
Schruijer added that the Board must first discuss the issue and vote before making any final decisions. She emphasized that projects of this size will take considerable research, time and effort to complete.
“They will need to look at elevations, topos, soil types; they will look at all that stuff before they do something in the area,” Schruijer said.
Once the surveying phase is complete, the company will determine its next steps to gain access to the land it requires, whether that means easements, purchasing the land or some other transaction, Schruijer explained.
Regarding requests for access from private landowners, the company will have to negotiate with those individuals directly, Schruijer said, or else find an alternative route.
“This is something that may take a while,” Schruijer said.